Qualitative audience research is a goldmine of customer data that can add many benefits to your marketing. It goes beyond the numbers and looks for feelings and opinions that aren’t always easy to uncover… and they all contribute to growth!

    1. It can close the time that prospects need to make their buying decision (speed up the sales cycle) so you end up selling to them faster.
    2. It can make your offers easier/faster to find through organic traffic (attract more qualified prospects to your offer)
    3. It can help you support the needs and wants of qualified prospects (create content that converts faster)

But how do you do qualitative audience research? By talking to your audience! Knowing your audience inside and out will make or break your marketing. Without this insight, you will waste both time and budget trying to find a tactic that works and that generates the results you want. So how do you find the answers? First, you need to ask the right questions.

Asking Qualitative Questions

Questions that can uncover guarded (whether subconscious or not) feelings or opinions are structured as open and free form. So, instead of asking “Do you use X like A or like B?” You would ask, “When you open X what is the first thing you do/see/click on?” or “How do you use X in your business?” or “Tell me how you use X in your company.”

By removing a selection or answer guide, you open the possibilities of responses. And this is the entire point. You want your customers to speak freely and in their own words so you can get inside thier mind and really understand their opinions and motivations.



In-person interviews are by far the best way to uncover these insights; however, sometimes this simply isn’t possible so a virtual interview or a telephone call will also work. Seeing facial expressions and gestures are best so always try for video first but I’ve done telephone interviews that worked well too.

Depending on the level of seniority you’re asking for time with, there are a few ways to arrange a call or meeting. If these are you own clients, then send out an email or leave a voice mail and ask for 20-30 minutes of their time. When I do these for clients I have them make a virtual introduction with an ask to give me a 30-minute call.

If you have a good relationship then the clients may not need anything in return; however, be prepared to offer an incentive. Things like an Amazon gift card, Starbucks coffee delivery (if you know what they like to drink) or even a charitable donation on their behalf works well.

TIP: Keep your interview to 20-30 minutes in length – no longer. Record the call with their permission. And ask follow-up questions to help them open up and allow you to dig deeper.

Focus Groups

This is when a group of participants weigh-in at the same time in a room. Hosting a focus group is a specialized field and should be undertaken by a professional. It’s important to pay attention to group segmentation so that any discoveries can be properly attributed.



Customer surveys are a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the customer experience but aren’t necessarily great for audience research.

For customer experience check-ins, a common question to ask is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) but it’s overused and there are other questions you can ask other than “How likely are you to recommend [your company].” I like to use this as a trigger to a follow-up email asking for an online review or testimonial. This helps weed out the neutrals.

Team Feedback

Sales and Customer Service offer valuable feedback around both prospects and customers. Keep in mind that this is not primary research – meaning they are adding their opinion and bias into the data you’re collecting. However, it’s valuable just the same and can often confirm or support conclusions.

I like to do a quick follow-up to review the survey results. Everyone is always curious and it helps people get excited about the customer results too. It also allows you to draw any attention to bias when the team feedback conflicts with customer research. This can be a powerful wake-up call.

You Alone Don’t Hold the Key

While it’s easier to just go by your gut thinking, “I know this audience because I’ve worked with them for years” – this isn’t the way that will bring you the results. Instead, try doing actual research. Do some research and if it confirms some of what you assume, that’s great! But it’s important to base your decisions around real customer truths. You’ll have higher success by basing your marketing off client words than your own interpretation.

It’s important to periodically look at and update your target audience research as things can shift over time. You can also gather insights along the way. For example, through customer service calls, sales calls, client meetings or sales pitches, watching a client use your product or apply the service. This can be vital information that helps your offering become more successful and more targeted to an audience that is ready to purchase or commit.

How do I use customer insights in marketing?

Integrating your customer research into your marketing is the fun part (for me anyways) and it’s where you’ll start to see traction in your CTAs and landing pages.

  • Use their exact words and phrases in blog posts or landing pages to show that you know what they’re feeling.
  • Build tools based on identified gaps in customer knowledge or skill.
  • Adapt your writing style to their preferences.
  • Make appearances on the channels where they spend their time.
  • Partner with vendors of their interest or need.

The list of how to use target audience research goes on and on (and depends on your unique offering). A lot of this becomes more apparent as you do the research.