Listen up (to the voice of the customer)
Just returned from a 4 hour research debrief. It was riveting (yes, really). Of course it confirmed what many of us thought anyway in terms of what needs to be done. Most research does. And of course it provided really useful insight into which aspects of this particular client's website needed the most dramatic overhaul. But the most valuable aspect was listening to the authentic voice of the customer. Not the customer as we think he or she is. Not the customer that the salesforce put us in touch with (who are normally either their mates or at least strong advocates and rarely the people who will give us an honest view of the company). These were the real McCoy, hauled off the proverbial street by a recruitment agency, with no preconceptions or axes to grind.
The way they talked about the organisation and the way they interacted with the website was absolutely fascinating (and somewhat humbling). Nothing like having your work dismissed in an instant as 'marketing fluff'.
I was left thinking what a shame it was that this type of research is a rarity in B2B. So the question is - why? Is it because budgets are always stretched and the money is rarely available for research as well as for doing stuff? Or because we think we know what the customer wants and don't think to ask? Or because the salesforce is reluctant to let us talk to customers on the grounds that we might spoil the relationship?
How far are you using research to inform your marketing activities? Interested to know your views.