Is the WWW (Wondrous Warehouse of Wisdom) kicking your proverbial assumptions about what influences how people think about your product? 

In our recent studies of shoppers, 58% said the primary influence on their choice of a major appliance is online research.  Word-of-mouth referrals (most coming from Facebook besties) are the primary influence for 31%.  Information provided in the store and sales personnel are 15% and 10% respectively.  The same pattern holds for how a person selects their car dealership—word-of-mouth referrals is the primary factor for nearly half (47%), followed by online research (34%).  The salesperson at the dealership is influential for 24% of car shoppers.  Here is a hard statistic to swallow if you are a health care professional:  51% rely on word-of-mouth to select a health care provider for routine health care services such as labs, urgent care, etc.  A physician referral is most influential for 55%—just a smidgen above word-of-mouth.

The message is clear:  you are not in control of some of the most influential stories being told about your products or services. 

This puts the burden on you to understand why people are saying those things about you.  What they say is only a fraction of the information needed to develop strategies.  Why they say it (what is motivating their comments) is essential to understanding the cues you are giving to the marketplace.  This type of deep listening to the market is best done by using qualitative research – research methods that allow the consumer to really tell their story.  You need to care enough about knowing their story if you want them to accurately tell others your story.

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