Today, businesses have access to a wealth of information that allows (among many other things) an easier and quicker view of the audience that’s purchasing one’s product or service. Brands have more insight into the ages, genders, geographies, and more that are putting their products in their physical or virtual shopping carts.
Concurrently, we have been noticing a trend regarding the desired audiences clients want to engage in research. The audiences are becoming more restricted as marketing, insights, and research teams seek to narrow in and learn more about solely the audiences that are buying their products and using their services.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with learning as much as you can about your target audience – brands should keep trying to get to know these people in as much depth as possible. However, we can’t be so narrow in focus, as if we are looking through blinders, on the target audience. Big Data tells us who our core consumers are, but leaves blind spots that need to be checked. It is important not to forget how much we can learn from those that aren’t currently purchasers and users, or the “Aren’ts”. There are a few benefits of getting to know your Aren’ts:
Get a clear picture of the barriers, limitations, and gaps that are preventing people from becoming consumers. These barriers could range from brand perceptions to price to product placement to lack of awareness and anything in between. You will never know what your barriers are if you never ask, and you can’t address your barriers until you know what they are and why they exist. Digging deep into why people aren’t using your product will allow you to work to bridge these gaps and overcome limitations. For example, what if people perceive your brand as for experts only, but you want to reach the general public (e.g. Brand Wars: Nike v. Under Armour). You wouldn’t know this until you talk to the people that aren’t currently purchasing your brand’s products.
Collect some competitive intelligence. If they’re not buying and using your products and services, there’s a good chance they’re customers of a competitor of yours. Take the opportunity to learn about what they do consume in your category. What do they like/dislike? What motivates them to make the choices that they do? What would they change if they could? Having a more open ended conversation with someone about why are currently choosing to use X product or service can be a very enlightening experience that you can leverage to improve your own offerings.
Identify potential opportunities. Connecting with your Aren’ts gives you license to investigate opportunities. Conduct open-ended research with your “Aren’ts” to explore whether you potentially have something, or could develop something, that would make them more likely to become an “are.” One of the major benefits of conducting open ended research is to the ability to minimize interjecting your own assumptions and allow people to speak for themselves as much as possible. As specific themes or trends start to develop they can become topics for additional research.
Stay ahead of trends in the market. By speaking with a much larger swath of people about what they want, what they aren’t currently getting, what they like and dislike, their excitement and/or fears about the future, and their perceptions of larger socio-cultural forces (e.g. economy, politics, etc.) you can chain foresight into what is on the horizon. By doing this you can get out in front of trends and anticipate rather than react. We all would like to be seen as trend setters rather than trend followers.
One question that should be asked for all research, but especially Big Data, is not only what our data is telling us, but also what is our data NOT telling us. Big Data lacks the intimacy to allow you to really connect with people and get to know what makes them tick. This is true for both your customers and those that aren’t. However, if you don’t focus on both you really are only seeing half of the picture. Put in another way, you’re not going to change lanes without checking your blind spots first; everything may seem clear looking straight ahead but you never know what is coming up on you. Getting to know your Aren’ts will provide you with so incredibly valuable information. Even if in the end you learn that you’re targeting the right people, you’ll be able to strengthen your differentiators, validate your current direction, and act with confidence. We all like to focus on the things we are doing right, but sometimes it’s the things we are doing wrong or not doing at all that we can learn from the most.