researching people

3 meaningful ways to improve your business by researching people

Ok, let’s be honest.

You’ve never done it.

You didn’t pay much attention and you found dozens of reasons why it’s not time to do it. 

Heck, probably you didn’t even know why and how to do it.

What am I talking about?

Research.

And in particular, market research. Not the kind of research you do by googling competitors, products, conferences etc. But the kind of research where you interact with and hear the feedback of individual people. Usually your customers or potential customers.

This kind of research should be the heart of the marketing of any business. 

All marketing experts agree on that, but only few businesses do proper marketing research on people. Why?

The reasons are simple: 

  • It takes time
  • It takes money
  • You have to know what you’re doing

Of course businesses prefer throwing their money on things that will show quick, immediate results, the “small shiny objects”. But this is done at the expense of the long term business success.

Today, inspired by the ConversionXL  CRO Minidegree I am attending, I will make it easier for you and show you how you can leverage the power of researching people, to optimize various aspects of your business and online assets.

Developing customer personas

There’s a lot more to say about personas, but roughly, a customer persona is a semi-fictional archetype that represents your ideal customer (in terms of demographics, personality traits, behaviors, motivations etc). 

Most businesses have a vague idea of who their customers are, and never go deeper into exploring behaviors, motivations and unique characteristics. Usually they stay to shallow demographic targeting. This is level 1.

Level 2 is when they put real thought into creating a customer persona, using their assumptions, experience and even real business data to back up their claims.

Level 3 is using surveys. A customer persona can be 10 times more accurate when you don’t just use your flawed assumptions and experience, but rather use your actual best customers’ answers. 

How you do that:

  1. Create a questionnaire with relevant, actionable and unbiased questions. 
  2. Distribute your survey to your customers (if you don’t have enough customers yet, then do it with your potential customers)
  3. Collect your data
  4. Analyze and quantify them
  5. You will see patterns emerging. Group similar patterns together to simplify the analysis.
  6. Identify clusters of customers with common characteristics.
  7. Now use each group to build your first customer archetypes (personas)
  8. TADAAA! Now that you know who you are selling to, you know how to sell it

Tools of the trade

While there are numerous research and online survey tools like SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics, I still recommend good ol’ Google Forms because of its versatility, simplicity and users’ familiarity with it. Ah! And of course, it’s price.

Message mining

Message mining is the process of extracting the foundation of your sales narrative and page copy through various research methods. 

In more simple terms, your aim here is to use the actual words of your customers to create/improve your product messaging. The concept is simple: People will react to your offering more eagerly if you use language they can relate to.

You do that by using:

  1. Surveys & polls.

Send a survey to your best customers or your potential customers. It is important to include open-ended questions and let your responders “speak” with their own voice. It’s a great way to gather great testimonials as well.

  1. Online reviews

This is the secret weapon everybody has at reach, but nobody uses: You can easily scrape reviews from your website or from review websites (Amazon, Yelp, Tripadvisor etc.) and get great ideas on what connects with your audience the most. And if you don’t have reviews yet, guess what: Your competitors have!

  1. 1-on-1 interviews

You can get 1-on-1 with either your customers or people from your target audience and make 30+ min interviews that revolve around your website message. You can hear their thoughts as they experience the website, in real time and get deeper on what impact each page has on them, so that you can “steal” their words and improve your product message.

Now, I hear you say, why do the message mining if we have created solid personas based on research? Isn’t it an overkill? Don’t we already have a solid enough message?

I’d say “yes and no”. While customer persona research paints a clear picture on who you are selling to, it doesn’t get deep enough in terms of language used by our persona. And “that very specific word or description our customer used in that review”, could very well be the line between conversion and non-conversion, because customers can “feel” a product in a way a marketer will never feel it.

Tools of the trade

Message mining is a lot of manual work. You have tons of customer reviews and messages to go through. I suggest using Google Sheets to organize and categorize all these scraped messages, and of course, Google Forms, in case you gather them through a customer survey.

Web & Exit Surveys

If you have decent website traffic then another type of customer research that can give you great value is “web & exit surveys”.

Web & exit surveys ask questions from people while they’re on your site and they are particularly useful because they can give you insights on very specific parts of your customer’s web journey. You can easily then identify sources of friction and optimize accordingly..

They usually come in the form of small popups or brief questionnaires on pages (eg. a thank you page). 

As you can understand, they can be quite intrusive and cause friction in the user experience. For that reason you have to know when to use them, and what to ask.

When to use it

There are 2 main rules here: 

  • Be relevant: You don’t want to ask “Why didn’t you buy from our website?” in the homepage, as they enter. For that it would be better if you create an exit popup on the checkout page for example.
  • Don’t interrupt their purchase process: You don’t want to pop up a question while they are trying to buy something. If they answer, that means they are not buying.

Rather, the best idea is to ask them questions when they are about to leave the website. (eg. after a purchase, on a thank you page)

What to ask

You could ask hundreds of questions of course. But keep in mind you want to learn 2 main things:

  • Why did they come to the site?
  • What are the sources of friction?

So, break each of these down, into more specific and meaningful questions.

Tools of the trade

I think it’s pretty safe to say that we have a tool that is becoming industry standard, due to its simplicity, affordability and awesome features: Hotjar. Great alternatives are Qualaroo and Webengage.


That’s all. 3 very useful ways to engage your customers and gather valuable data that will make your marketing jump up two levels.

Or three.

What are your thoughts? You think I am missing something?