Ask the right questions to drive business growth

By Lynn Manternach / Guest Opinion

It’s budgeting season again – time to decide how you will allocate your organization’s resources to drive growth and profitability in the year ahead.

Here’s a fun fact: Companies that invest in re­search grow faster and are more profitable than those that do not.

Every organization needs an edge and under­standing how to get the attention of the right consumers is a pretty powerful advantage. Con­sumer research that helps you understand the market, what your target consumers want and need, and how your brand fits into that picture makes it much easier for you to focus your ener­gy and resources on hitting the mark.

Consumer research, when done right, is one of the most effective tools for developing better branding and marketing strategies. But it’s not just about asking questions. You need to ask the right questions in the right way to get the insight you need for strategy development.

Here are some questions that can get you started on the path to increased growth and profitability:

Why do your best customers choose you? Want to find more customers like your best customers? Then you need to understand what makes them different from your average custom­er. Understanding what attracted your best cus­tomers and why they continue to buy from you can help you find others just like them.

Ask open-ended questions that encourage those who know you best to talk about why they choose your brand over other options in the mar­ketplace. Listen carefully to how they talk about the connection they have with your brand. Once you really understand what connects current cus­tomers to your brand, use that insight to connect with potential customers who are most like your best current customers. Reflect their words and phrases back into the marketplace for maximum relevance and connection power.

What makes your brand so special? The per­spective from inside your company may not be the same as the perception held by customers and potential customers. What you think makes your business or brand special isn’t nearly as import­ant as what consumers think makes you special.

Figure out what customers love about your brand, use that insight to articulate your brand value and focus your efforts and resources on building that position.

Who are your competitors, according to your customers? Does your list of competitors match up with the list of companies potential customers are looking at when they seek a solu­tion? You might be surprised, which is exactly why you need to ask. Your customers’ percep­tions of your competitive set will provide valu­able insight into the nuances of how your brand is currently positioned in the marketplace. Knowing the category in which you compete in the minds of customers gives you an opportuni­ty to strengthen your position in that category or take steps to reposition your brand.

What trusted sources do consumers use when choosing a business or brand like yours? Now, more than ever before, consumers do their homework before making a buying deci­sion. They seek out trusted sources, such as col­leagues, online consumer or expert reviews, and online content.

Not that long ago, there was a manageable number of information sources. That’s no longer the case. You can’t cover them all, so you need to know how to prioritize your resources for the best return on your communications investment.

The bottom line is that well-crafted consumer research is essential to long-term growth, profit­ability and success. To get the right answers, you have to start with the right questions.

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact her at