Questions matter: Five tips for knockout market research

Katie Tucker

How often do you find yourself guessing in business? Guessing what your customers want? Guessing whether they’ll buy?

Small businesses owners are told to listen to their gut. Find their passion. Keep going. Show up and the magic will happen. They are blitzed with marketing, sales and social media advice. Sold tutorials on pricing, legal, PR and DIY design. Do we need these skills? Hell, yes. But there’s something missing. Something that can make or break a business: quality market research. Now, I know what you’re thinking… market research? Not another endless survey (yawn) or a Zoom focus group!

Smart market research

Stay with me. I mean smart research. Knockout research even. The type that builds you up. Gives you confidence in your decisions. Makes sure you’re spending your energy on the RIGHT things. That’s the market research I’m talking about. Intentionally talking to your customers. Asking great questions. Understanding. Listening. Empathising.

Market research puts that business idea you’ve been dreaming about to the test; ups your marketing game and supercharges your existing offer. It can get your business brain buzzing again when the ideas tank runs dry.

Don’t ask people what they want

But where to start if you are a small business? It all comes down to the quality of questions. Not all questions are equal! Worthwhile market research is not about asking people what they want? It’s about asking customers what they’re trying to get done instead.

Customers know what they are trying to get done. Not feel stressed all the time. Feel like a good parent. Become an expert in their field. Become more fit. Buy a new house. Feel more confident. Achieve a better work/life balance. Be a good friend. Impress their partner.

Customers know what obstacles and challenges prevent them from getting things done. The snags, the setbacks, the frustrations, the F*#k moments. Customers know the relief, joy, pride and sense of achievement that comes with getting closer to their goals.

Customers don’t know how your business can help them get there faster, cheaper, fairer, with flying colours with less stress. That’s on you! When doing market research, forget about your product and service for a minute. Focus on them.

What are you people ultimately trying to achieve in your space? How are they going about achieving that currently? What is frustrating them off or lighting them up along the way? That, my friends, is where you will find the magic. The answers. The opportunities.

Five tips for meaningful customer conversations

The next time you are talking to customers, keep these tips handy. They will sharpen your interviewing skills, help you ask better questions. Deeper customer understanding guaranteed.

  1. Keep the conversation open: Stick to open-ended questions when talking to customers. Avoid asking questions that will only get you a yes or no answer. Think of using how and why more.
  2. Story time: Allow customers to share stories, you will find out so much more. Ask questions like: “tell me about the last time you…”; or “talk me through how you go about doing…
  3. Check your bias: avoid introducing bias and projecting feelings into your questions. Instead of: “does buying clothes online frustrate you?” ask “how do you go about buying clothes online?” Don’t assume what frustrates you, frustrates them.
  4. Back to the future: avoid hypothetical questions or you will get a hypothetical answer. Humans are notoriously bad at predicting future behaviour. Avoid asking questions such as: “I’m thinking of launching a subscription box would you be interested?” Instead focus on present and past behaviours, a much better predictor of what they are likely to do, say or buy in the future. For example: “Do you currently subscribe to any monthly boxes? Have you in the past?” etc.
  5. Embrace your inner child and keep asking why. The five ‘why?’ rule is proven to get to the root cause of a behaviour – don’t be shy, keep asking why until you get the answers you need.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go find some people to talk to and tell me how you get on!

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About the Author

Katie Tucker

Katie Tucker aka the question crafter founded Product Jungle in 2020. She helps small businesses understand their customers better. Killer questions, knockout market research, Katie teaches tried and tested methods from the world of big tech and savvy start-ups. Unlocking the insights you need to make the next right decision.

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