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Best Consumer Intel Found In The Wild

My regular readers know how much I love talking about market research where consumer intelligence is gathered “out in the wild” rather than through artificially contrived environments and methods (e.g., focus groups). I argue strongly that it yields far more reliable information about interests, needs, and desires.

All of which is why Joshua Black’s post, 5 Sneaky Ways to Find Out What Customers Really Want… Without Asking Them, over at Men with Pens is a real keeper.

See item #2:

Go to Wal-Mart: This expression means you should get out there and eavesdrop on your customers in their natural environment. Hang around the lions while they’re kicking back in their den complaining about their biggest problems to other lions (like who left their dirty undies lying around the cave).

Customers will never really tell you their problems if you ask directly. They often don’t exactly know what their problems are.

Listen to what customers say. Are they complaining? About what? Are they sighing over something they wish they had? What is it? What problems keep them from getting the results they want?

Don’t say a word. Take copious amounts of notes and quietly leave the scene like an entrepreneurial ninja. I like to hang out at coffee shops and use my Blackberry for this kind of covert operation, because it just looks like I’m texting someone and being oblivious to people at other tables.

And as a smart commenter responded, another method for gathering similar intel is to run Twitter searches for keywords and themes related to your product or business.

What other ways of uncovering consumer intelligence out in the wild have you found most beneficial to your business?

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