Top 10 Consumer Research Questions (and a damn fine cup of coffee)

man drinking coffee


Jay Conrad Levinson, the author of Guerrilla Marketing, once stated that the greatest billboard in history would simply have these words: “Free coffee, next exit.”

Imagine the traffic. Now, imagine you were one who placed this billboard, along with a rented space right off the exit where the coffee would be served. In this hypothetical space—while playing a mixture of barista and Coyote Ugly—you would be able to ask eager visitors for their feedback on a product you’re developing.

What would you ask, in this supposed scenario perhaps directed by your inner David Lynch? You would have to ask the right, pithy questions. The rapid coming and going for coffee, after all, reflects an age where the average consumer has the attention span of a goldfish.

Here are the chief consumer research questions that will elicit the exact data for your product, even for a crowd demanding their complimentary java:

1. If I created a product about (problem you solve), would you be interested in buying it?

This question is always a good icebreaker, although a notion called response bias warns that people often say what you want to hear. They key is how excited they get. As marketing guru Seth Godin explained: If you mention a product or idea to a friend and then this person, on their own, tells ten other friends about it, then you probably have a winner. If the friend remains silent, go back to the drawing board. No need to terminate friendship, though.

2. What are these problems costing you?

Another way to slay response bias is to make the cost of their problems concrete. When we’re shown in numbers how bad our issues are, we tend to get real honest real quick.

3. How do you hope (product) will make your life better?

People want problems solved, sure, but they also want a better quality of life. This concept may also include a product that elevates their status in society. Furthermore, in our digital age, the Fear of Missing Out phenomena is more powerful than ever.

4. What’s happening in your life that brought you here today?

This question is considered perhaps THE question to ask consumers, but it won’t work for the Twin Peaks market research situation. However, the inquiry is key for online research. Finding the process of why consumers arrived at your site or store is almost as valuable as what they say about your brand.

5. Does (product) remind you of another brand?

If by any small chance you have a unique product, then life is good…at least until its release and then reality bring challenges. However, if a product loudly evokes another brand out there, or maybe one you might have overlooked, then it’s a good launching pad to analyze the competition or rebrand into something more niche.

6. How much are you willing to pay for (product)?

At the initial stages of product development, it’s prudent to get a feel of value and expectation of a brand. You can couch the value in terms of the value of the product solving a problem in a respondent’s life.

7. What would stop you from purchasing (product) right now?

Nothing wrong with finding out early what resistances future customers might have. This also provides essential materials for the sales team you probably have in the hypothetical backroom brewing the coffee.

8. How do you prefer to receive information about (product)?

As with pricing, gaining a good vibe on preferred platforms (i.e. video, audio, internet) may go a long way.

9. Who, what why, when, where and how would you use (product)?

Using a little journalistic acumen can open up vast understanding in potential customers. In addition, most people efficiently respond to the “Five W’s and One H” formula. Become a hypothetical New York Times.

10. Would you recommend (product) to a friend?

Some say this is the greatest question in marketing, in any medium. A respondent’s honesty and altruism shine through when it comes suggesting a product or idea to someone who might ruin their face or status in the community.

(Bonus) Was the coffee good?

It better be, but we mention this question as a reminder of the invaluable tool of small talk whenever possible. One of the tenets of sales is to get a customer in a “yes” mode by asking questions that will result in a positive reaction. In market research, this can sentiment can negate confirmation bias and other cancers to quality data.

We hope the coffee in this hypothetical research project was a damn fine one. Obviously, more questions ought to be asked in consumer research; and many ought to be directed at the brand itself. Self-knowledge is just as significant to product development. Maybe in real life (yet) you cannot afford a billboard and a place with flowing coffee, but asking the right questions is always priceless.

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