Mapping Customer Attitudes

Marketers have a lot of data at their disposal. They’ve got demographic data, purchase history data, and web tracking data. And that’s just for starters.

You wouldn’t think we’d need any more. But, in fact, many marketers could benefit from using an easy-to-understand map of customer attitudes.

Consumer goods companies have observed, surveyed, and analyzed their customers for years. In the process, they have developed a number of techniques for segmenting markets and understanding consumer behavior. In the automotive industry, for instance, it’s been relatively easy to collect demographic data about drivers without talking to the consumer.

However, it’s hard to predict which car someone will buy just by knowing demographic characteristics. While one person of a certain age, income level, and family situation may drive an expensive imported car, his next-door neighbor might share the same demographic profile and drive an inexpensive domestic car. Thus, the demographic data doesn’t explain the difference in automotive preferences. But understanding the differences in how these two consumers perceive the features and benefits of automobiles could help marketers understand their needs and interests and which cars they are likely to prefer.

By surveying consumers about their attitudes toward the leading products in a market, marketers can map customers’ dominant attitudes toward products. Market research companies such as Simmons conduct detailed interviews to gather the data needed to identify clusters of buyer attitudes.

In addition, by measuring attitudes toward products, researchers can create a perceptual map of a market. These perceptual maps typically use a two-by-two matrix to show how brands compete in their market and are perceived by consumers.

Perceptual maps have several uses in creating compelling ads and refining media selection, but they can also be used to tailor content on web sites and in email messages.

If you don’t have access to syndicated marketing reports, you can identify dominant customer attitudes through your own focus group studies. Or you can use an online research company such as InsightExpress to get a feel for different customer attitudes and possibly which products are correlated with those attitudes.

As web sites add more informative articles about how their products meet customer needs, these articles can include one or two questions to learn how customers feel about attributes on the perceptual map. Once you know the various attitudes customers have toward you and your competitors, you can develop web pages for each type of customer and links to those pages that guide visitors to pages appropriate for them.

If you use a profiling system on your web site, you can ask a couple of well-designed questions to determine what will appeal to different people.

For instance, a five-point Likert scale can be used to measure how an individual perceives the attributes that differentiate you from your competitors. Market researchers phrase these questions in many ways, but you might find that simply asking about the importance of key attributes is more acceptable to web visitors.

By focusing these questions on a prospect’s interests and lifestyles – and not on product features or benefits – you can frequently learn enough about the person to place him or her on the perceptual map of your market. By combining a person’s psychographic data with any demographic data gathered along the way, personalized marketing messages can be included in web pages and email messages that are likely to appeal to them.

This technique has benefits for web visitors and web marketers. It helps web visitors make a buying decision more quickly, and it helps marketers learn more about the visitors who come to their web site which is the essence of one-to-one marketing.

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