Someone recently sent me a suggested post for LinkedIn about Voice of Customer (VOC) research. The article implied that present-day marketer focus on VOC is over-hyped in its importance and impact. After all, the opening paragraph explained, people are not truly honest in focus groups. WHAT?!

It went on to explain what people say is not often what they do. REALLY? LOL. Of course, these suggestions regarding the down side of focus groups is correct. What’s not correct is to suggest I should consider focus groups to acquire the in-depth understanding of my customer audience and that I need to engage with them in a meaningful way, speak their language and help them get what they need.

WHY? If you really want to understand a person, do you put them in a group with a facilitator and a double mirror and watch what they do? Or, do you visit with them in a one-on-one conversation? Focus groups are marvelous tools, particularly for product, service and messaging development. It is a valid way to acquire qualitative feedback. But, it is not my first choice for excellent VOC research.

Brilliant marketing starts with understanding your audience. Without this approach, and without constantly updating it, it is extremely difficult to truly understand your audience needs emotive motivators and language. One on one conversation, with guaranteed confidentiality, conducted by an independent professional, facilitates trust, honesty and high quality information that never fails to render new and critical actionable information about your customers. You may be able to get excellent information in small groups of 2 or 3, but you can expect the openness and honesty to be impacted by other members of the group.

Getting the best information is a bit more complex than just having a chat, of course. You have to set up the right rapport. And, what you ask, when you ask it and how you phrase questions, are also critical to truly listening to and hearing what your customers and prospects need. But, it’s all worth it. After all, your customers and prospects are the image of your future customers.

Truly knowing your audience really is the basis, the foundation for building brilliant marketing that engages more customers, generates measurably more leads and helps you qualify them to become customers. It’s worth doing well and often.