Consumers see literally thousands of adverts every day. And yet, they only go on to buy a handful of those products or services. Standing out to consumers, for all the right reasons, is increasingly important in a world where adverts are so easily drowned out by the competition.
Campaign managers have a tough challenge on their hands as a result. Their team’s ROI, the revenue of the company, and their own reputation are all staked on the success of each creative they design and release into the world.
While many might see campaign managers – and the wider marketing team – as creative souls, preoccupied with dreaming up words and pictures that sell products, the reality is that so much of the campaign manager’s day-to-day role is rooted in data analysis and moving the needle on key metrics.
Gathering consumer insights plays a pivotal role in this. Here are three key ways they use consumer research to guide their campaigns:
- Inspire campaigns. Find out what makes consumers tick, how they describe the product or service and what features you should focus on to encourage them to buy.
- Optimise campaigns. Once they know what to showcase, they need to test which images and copy are most effective in educating, converting or retaining the public.
- Track campaigns. Finally, once the campaign is live, they need to track how it performs to keep the budget allocated correctly, and learn lessons to take back to the first stage for the next campaign.
And the cycle goes on.
We asked top campaign managers and marketing professionals from around the world what questions they ask their consumers to answer these three research requirements. Here are the top 10 questions campaign managers include in their consumer research:
Questions for inspiring campaigns
“What type of content are you interested in?”, followed by, “What content do you find hard to access?”
Tom Feltham, Marketing Operations Director at Software Path, says: “We surveyed consumers about the type of content they were interested in, and how accessible that information was. Although most content areas scored similarly for “interest”, we identified a big gap in the market for one content type which was deemed much less accessible. In a competitive market, that is gold dust.”
For inspiring your creative teams, identifying gaps in the current content offerings – by both your own brand and your key competitors – can be a lucrative opportunity. This is the holy grail of consumer research; consumers literally telling you what they want more of. And it’s information you have over the other brands in your market, so you can provide the information that’s in demand before your competitors have time to respond.
“What do you do for a living?”
Sean Pour, Co-Founder, SellMax, says: “The question I ask to inspire our campaigns is: “What do you do for a living?”. This gives us a general idea of who our current clientele are, and it inspires our ad creatives. What someone does for a living can tell us a lot about their personality type, risk tolerance, and lifestyle. This allows us to cater our copywriting and ad design towards them.”
Demographics can be a powerful tool for understanding and grouping your existing clients. This allows you to expand your appeal to other consumers who look similar on paper, with the reassurance that your brand already appeals to that segment. Segmenting by career is just one option to help you resonate with your target audience.
“What is your primary goal when using this product?”
Casey Hill from Bonjoro, says: “The most critical question I ask in order to track and run an effective marketing campaign is, ‘What is your primary objective/goal when using this product/service?’.
“We then create different segments to target individuals based on what they say. Knowing what your prospect is looking for is the most essential piece of information to allow you to solve their problems and add value.”
Recognising that your consumers divide into distinct categories based on need is another step – on top of demographics – that you can use to create campaigns that are relevant to smaller and more specific groups. The more specific your campaigns are – by each addressing a single desired outcome – the more they will move the needle within each subgroup of your audience.
“What criteria do you use to judge our brand?”
Alwi Suleiman, Head of Content at Content Marketing King, says: “When we create surveys we delve deep into consumer sentiments. However, everything we ask answers three fundamental questions that shape how we develop campaigns to suit consumer needs:
- What results are you looking for from this product/service?
- What criteria do you use to judge our brand?
- What do you dislike about our brand/product/service?”
Holding the answers to these three questions, direct from the mouths of your target audience, will allow you to create campaigns that resonate on a number of levels. With this knowledge, you can focus your creative on the outcomes customers are actually looking for when they buy your product or service, and you can make sure you’re promoting the features that are most important to them. In addition to this, you can address any factors that might be putting off potential customers.
“What is your pain point?”
Dipesh Desai of BillTrim, says: “During a campaign, we consider user intent when writing all our content. As such, we have to ask, “What is the pain point? Why are they on this page?”. Even our Frequently Asked Questions on the landing page serve a purpose — to answer questions and reduce the amount of friction between the customer and their end-goal.”
Knowing your consumer intimately, and building personas around their unique pain points, will help your campaigns strike to the heart of their needs. Openly asking for their pain points is one way to ensure that your campaign focuses on how you can help.
Jesse Harrison, Founder & CEO of HopeTree Legal Funding, agrees: “Most people know exactly what complaints they have with respect to a product or service, so asking this question targets exactly what is wrong and guides me in the right direction to fixing it. My job is to solve a problem, I don’t let the consumer tell me how to solve the problem, I let them tell me about the problem and I will figure out a solution myself.”
Questions for optimising campaigns
“After seeing this advert, are you more or less likely to… [e.g.] buy the product/visit the brand’s website/explore the product further?”
Jeremy Lawlor, Co-Founder and Chief Strategist, Active Business Growth, says: “Running, testing, tweaking and tracking successful marketing campaigns that drive traffic, sales, and conversions is what I do all day every day.
“Our clients usually wish to increase any one of the following: calls, emails, contact form submissions, leads, website traffic, conversion rates, revenue, profit, and so on. Whichever metrics they choose are the ones we hone in on for our campaign. Everything we do from that point forward is to measure, track, test, and tweak all variables that will ultimately help these metrics increase.”
Identifying the ultimate KPI(s) your campaign is aiming for will allow you to draft relevant questions that gather the data you need. Once you get results to those questions, you will be able to iterate creative assets to improve those metrics, and re-test. The beauty of creative testing is in asking respondents for their intended action, without setting the campaign live and testing in-flight, ultimately preserving your media budget.
“Is there anything else you’d like to let us know about this advert?”
Polly Kay, Marketing Manager at English Blinds, says: “The best way to gain meaningful insights from customers isn’t always to direct them with specific questions, but to ask what they’d like to mention or tell you. If you’re not including an ‘any other thoughts/anything you’d like to let us know?’ question in your consumer research, you’re missing out. These types of comments are often the most insightful and useful.
“Always provide space and time for the customer to expand on each of their points, too, instead of just looking for tick box or sliding scale metrics. Ultimately, if you don’t ask the right questions then every answer is wrong, and it’s not always possible to know when you’re committing this type of mistake!”
When you’re optimising your advert, your familiarity with it can subconsciously colour your draft survey questions. Allowing respondents to say “actually, this advert is….” leaves room for the eventuality that you haven’t thought of all responses a consumer might have to your creative.
Questions for tracking campaigns
“How likely are you to use our company?”
Sean Pour, Co-Founder, SellMax, says: “This questions lets us track the success of our campaign. Ultimately our goal is to build a brand that customers love and want to return to repeatedly. If people aren’t willing to use us again, we are doing something wrong and our campaigns need to be amended to fix it.”
Often, a successful ad campaign will drive up the consumers’ likelihood to purchase, either for the first time or as a repeat customer. For small and growing companies, for whom customer loyalty offers stable revenue, asking consumers whether the advert helped or hindered their likelihood to buy the brand can be a vital metric to measure and focus on improving over time.
“Where did you first hear about this brand/product/service?”
Seb Burchell and Ed Westbrook, PR Manager and CRM Manager, Mojo Mortgages, say: “Like many other companies, we track how our customers have arrived through software like Google Analytics (GA). GA gives you a strong insight into online procurement, in addition to useful statistics such as time spent on site, and the most popular sections of the website.
“Interestingly, we then ask our customers where they think they’ve come from – this provides us with both a good idea of which advertising and marketing channels are most prominent to the general public, as well as an effective source of comparison data.”
While tools such as Google Analytics can provide some quantitative data to measure your campaign success, adding a layer of consumer research can uncover unique insights only possible through qualitative questions. While consumers may have reached your website through Twitter, for example, only the consumer themselves can tell you that they also saw three billboards, two TV ads, and a print ad in their morning newspaper which all played a part in encouraging them to click your Twitter ad.
“What problem does this product solve?”
Gray Dudek, Co-Founder and Technology Director of Giants and Titans, says: “At a high level, most brand trackers will cover the same areas. Below this, the metrics themselves can differ wildly dependant on the brand and their objectives. Often, it’s the qualitative questions that add the most value at this level, as they’re the most difficult to track with existing campaign tools. While there’s never a ‘go to’ set of questions that can be used for every business, one question that can be quite telling is: What problem does the product solve? If phrased correctly, this will give a good indication as to whether the brand objective is closely matched to consumer needs.
“As a watchpoint we work on the basis that if it can be tracked, it should be. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a campaign, finding an interesting result and realising that you don’t have the corresponding information needed to make it actionable.”
While some campaign managers noted that they ask consumers about their desired outcomes and pain points when they’re looking to spark ideas for their campaigns, the team at Giants and Titans include this question in their campaign tracking (as part of their regular brand tracker). Asking the question at both ends of the process will illuminate whether your campaign has conveyed an effective brand message, and one the target consumers want to hear.
Staying fresh and relevant is crucial to the success of campaigns. If an advert fails to be interesting to consumers, brands will see their revenues and retention plummet. The responsibility rests firmly on the shoulders of campaign managers, though they have tools in their arsenal to drive up the likelihood of success.
Using data throughout the campaign process, in each of the three stages discussed above, allows campaign managers to sense check their projects with the very consumers they’re ultimately trying to influence.
These campaign managers agree that consumer insights are the straightest line to inspiring, optimising and tracking campaigns. For further inspiration on how to set up consumer research projects, including dozens more helpful questions you can ask, read our Complete Guide to Survey Creation.