Consumer and Keyword Research

By Dave Tan, Vice President, Content Solutions

Continuing my forays into the consumer research topic, I was recently at a wonderful gathering of like-minded executives at a conference in New York. At these council meetings, I had the pleasure of participating in a few discussions on consumer research. It reinforced to me that there are so many different ways for companies to conduct user research. It can range from simple free surveys companies can send to their registered users to full-scale ethnographies that involve following your consumers through their busy days.

It was great to see the passion that many of these marketing and product development executives had for conducting primary consumer research, as it showed that despite the economic situation we are all in, companies are doing everything they can to get to better understand their consumers and prospective targets. Much like I have written about here at, you can never have enough consumer research in your arsenal as an interactive marketer. The more you know, the better you can sculpt and tailor your product or service offering to satisfy your ideal consumer targets. Knowing how they interact with sites through user experience testing, or understanding what service offerings are important to them through online surveys is very important to deepening the relationship with these target consumers.

But on that topic of consumer research, another common theme I heard was that companies had issues translating their product and marketing language to plain consumer speak. I heard it a handful of times over two days, and despite their budgets and resources, bountiful research archives, and digital data, they could not get around figuring out how consumers spoke about them without conducting large-scale focus groups and listening to their actual words.

Those struck me, especially since many of these marketers had been around since the dot bomb era and were definitely in the digital space for the past decade. I had to stop myself from shouting each time for them to go to Google insights for Search, or Yahoo to see how consumers searched. It’s a free tool that gives marketers a great snapshot into how consumers (yours and mine) are searching for your products and services. Of course you don’t need to tailor all your marketing descriptions and content exactly to the keywords that consumers search for, but everyone should take a few minutes and do a bit of keyword discovery.

These findings can help companies make the jump from speaking in their own language to plain consumer language. It certainly happens in the business world as it is the “curse of knowledge” that Chip and Dan Heath point out in their book and blog Make to Stick. Much like the common pitfall of imagining that we ourselves are the ideal target audience, we need to be wary of the industry or company speak for marketers. So, take a few minutes and spin through keyword research tools. There is a ton out there beyond the ones from the engines, and they certainly will uncover how consumers search for your products.


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