Stop asking questions and start listening

Ray Poynter

As 'we' research models reveal a deeper understanding of the needs, concerns and desires of consumers, social media is becoming an essential tool for listening to communities from the inside

The process of understanding consumers, a process than can be loosely described as market research, is going through a period of both evolution and revolution.

The evolution is a shift from representative samples of people, interviewed via clipboards and telephones, towards online surveys conducted with pre-recruited panels of members doing 50 or more surveys a year, towards integrated databases where CRM and research are blurring into holistic feedback systems.

However, it is the revolution that is grabbing more interest and which threatens to reshape the relationship between marketers and consumers. The revolution is best described as being a shift away from asking questions towards listening. This shift is most pronounced in the area of social media but is also finding expression in the way that many brand managers and even board directors are spending time 'hanging out' with customers – and is beginning to create a shift from 'me'-research to 'we'-research.