It’s normal for a business, a company, a distributor, or in our realms of operations a promoter or a broker, to want to get to know their clients better, pinpoint their preferences, their desires, their consumer patterns.
Ideally you’d like to design the perfect product for them, one that fulfills every desire on their ultimate wish-list!
In that line of thought, the most logical thing to do is ask your clients what they need. How do they rate our products, our services? What do they wish for? How can we improve? A survey seems a good option: is it really though?
1. Do we dare to say it all?
Recent political news has been disturbing, what with Brexit in the U.K.,Trump in the White House, and newcomers Trudeau and Macron starting from almost nothing six months before their respective elections.
Surveys done before these elections were extremely volatile, fickle, sometimes even incoherent; none of them predicted what was going to happen.
Do we dare say everything? Do we speak from the heart or do we give what we believe is the “right” answer?
Human beings are social animals. A human child at birth doesn’t have much, other than the amazing faculty of social interaction. So we live in community, taking on common practices and behaviours recognized by all. We feel safe in our community and wouldn’t do anything to risk being set apart or isolated.
The same holds true when it comes time to give an opinion. We naturally and somewhat unconsciously blend what we really think and what we think others will find acceptable for us to say.
In politics this translates into results that minimize extremes or newcomers (algorithms are used in surveys to artificially compensate for these fluctuations). On the other hand, popular candidates or generally accepted ‘noble’ ideas (like ecology, for example) will have a survey score that rises compared to election results.
So when it comes time to give your opinion in a survey, reputation, fear of displeasing someone or a lack of self-confidence all get in the way of expressing what we truly feel.
2. Are we conformists?
Let’s imagine a survey that asks: “How would you like to consult your bank account?”
– These days a large majority would probably say: “In a secure space, in my home or anywhere in the world, using the internet.”
– In 1995, a large majority of people would have said: “By going to one of my bank’s branches.”
– In 1955, you’d probably “go to my bank and consult the records”.
So how would we read those answers? Let’s take a banker, full of good intentions: the 1995 answer tells him that his clients want more branches, so he’ll open more! but another banker, who doesn’t pay attention to surveys and advice, will have more of a non-conformist vision and will open the first virtual bank a few years later. We know the rest of the story: these banks were very successful and more traditional banks worked hard to shift to a virtual presence and offer online products.
3. Is the client aware of his own consumer process?
An interesting survey is now a textbook case. In the 70’s, a wine distributor wanted to get to know his clients better. Many questions were asked, including a most logical one: “What makes you choose between different bottles?” 65% of people said “the taste!” So the distributors offered a great-tasting product and the bottle stayed, well, a bottle.
Another distributor, by heeding consumers, started to invest in packaging. Huge boutique success! We know the rest: the SAQ bottles now vie for creative distinction with twisted, turned, square, frosted, distressed and gilded bottles.
Surprisingly enough, a recent survey showed that “taste” still leads the way for 45% of people surveyed. A slightly lower score since we’re more tuned in to the marketing aspect of a product. Meanwhile, neuroscience has more clearly defined why we buy by studying the gaze, body temperature and sweat patterns of buyers. The results are clear: 65% of wine buyers choose their wine because of its appearance, whether it be a nice label or that the bottle simply “looks good”.
What interests us with these results is the dichotomy between our client’s conscious choices, what they do thinking they do it because of clear and well thought-out reasons, and their unconscious, where the primal brain, hormones, stress levels, all kinds of factors affect them even though the client can’t name them. Kudos to neuroscience and their neuromarketing applications for these major advances!
Humans aren’t always aware of what they’re thinking, won’t always say what they think and their thoughts are often banal and misunderstood. Taking all that into consideration it seems suicidal to base concepts, marketing and knowledge of your client base on such a tool!
So be non-conformist, anticipate trends, be wary, don’t take anything at face value, be smart, bypass the conscious mind to appeal to the unconscious!
That being said, surveys are still done by the thousands, so am I saying that the marketing teams using surveys for the biggest multinationals are idiots? Of course not. surveys remain an important tool to hear client’s voices, send them the message that their opinion matters or grow brand loyalty. The survey should be seen as more of a communication tool rather than a marketing one.