Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why Observation is Your Best Market Research Tool

How many times have you heard the phrase "the powers of observation?" But what exactly does that mean in relationship to market research? We sometimes observe our clients, customers and even our colleagues with an egocentric focus. The ego steers us away from those gut, intuitive feelings that help us really understand and see people for who they are. 

What does all this psychobabble mean? It means it's time to pay attention to your target markets, customers and colleagues. Read between the lines and don't rely on literal translation - let your logical mind take a breather. 

Dig deeper and really listen, focus and observe people. You can use all the technical marketing metrics and tools in the world, but if you don't see human beings for who they are and how they act, think, behave, etc. - you won't truly understand people on a real and authentic level. 

For example, I just joined a new women's group on LinkedIn. I have "met" and interacted with many of these women on other LinkedIn groups. I assumed my powers of observation were right on the money, but I was wrong. It wasn't until I really interacted and dug deeper and shared honest, vulnerable stories, that I had a huge awakening. I realized I didn't really know anything abou them - yes, I knew the superficial facts here and there but that was it.

Their personal experiences shape who they are, not just as professional women, but as human beings. When we interact on the Internet,  it's easy to forget that there is more to people than just a faceless name, and we sometimes take that for granted. Even when we interact face-to-face, our technology distracts us from "really" observing people. 

How can we fine tune our powers of observation as business professionals? 

1. Check out discussion forums, boards, groups, blogs, etc. When you read discussions, pay attention and observe before you comment. When you comment, don't just share your opinion but ask probing questions (in a polite, respectful manner). Dig deeper and look into the "core" of the people interacting on the forum - not just the surface. It's easy to think we know a lot about people and take people at face value. We are all on different paths so don't jump to conclusions and make false assumptions. It can be difficult to get to know someone on the Internet and people hide behind anonymity, but it is possible to shed the cyber layers. 

2. Listen to people and pay attention to your gut instinct. When your customers talk to you, really listen to them. Don't talk at them. Ask their opinions and feedback. Your gut instinct points you in the right direction. How does it feel when you talk to customers? What's not being said? Can your hear frustration in their voice even though they don't come right out and say they are frustrated? 

3. Don't limit yourself to just business books and seminars. Pick up a philosophy, sociology or personal development book. Try out a yoga class. I'm not saying that business books or webinars aren't effective (I read and attend plenty of them). A different perspective can help us view people and our world in new, creative ways - which helps hone our powers of observation.

How are your powers of observation? Do they need a tune-up? 




  1. Thank you for this, Therese! We often focus on this when face to face, but I hadn't thought about it in cyberspace terms. This really helps me!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Susan. As I mentioned, it's easy to get caught up in the "faceless" names on social media (especially on LinkedIn). We are all still humans with feelings, thoughts and emotions. We all need to take that into consideration when we interact with people - whether online or offline.


Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

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