With more access now to buyer behaviors and interests than ever before, marketers can use a variety of methods for buyer research and get a much stronger understanding of their audience — who they are, what their challenges are, and where they need help.

This isn’t necessarily breaking news – 92% of Content Marketing Association members use customer data as an aspect of their strategy and a way to transform the sales funnel. However, with an increasingly complex landscape among tech stack tools, it’s easy to get lost or overlook powerful buyer research practices.

Depending on your strategy, you may already have significant access to important details about your buyers, and you always want to be getting the most of your current channels, right? Waste not want not.

By taking a step back at your current touchpoints and making sure you’re optimizing them to their best capability, you unlock more opportunities to gain buyer insight. Plus this type of audit can help identify new useful tools or platforms to add to your stack.

Here are seven key ways to track down data and cultivate buyer research without getting lost in the tech noise:

1. Lead Forms

Well-made lead form fields give you the essentials on each lead: name, email, company name, and job title. These are the most basic aspects of your buyer research. Even with just a company name and job title, you can discern a lot about the person: their field of interest, their company size, and their ranking within an organization. You can even add a more playful field to loosen up the formality like favorite TV show or if they’re more of a cat or dog fan.

Note that the shorter the lead form, the more leads you often attain. Plus, you’re a lot less likely to find fake inputs muddling your data when you use shorter lead forms, which, as you may know, happens. Hubspot estimates that the optimal lead form length is seven fields long, so stay in that ballpark. Like in the example above, consider adding a creative CTA or submit button that gives a little more incentive to get to the next page.

2. Interactive Content

Interactive content not only increases lead engagement and participation, but it doubles as an excellent source of buyer research. Pose questions in the form of quizzes, assessments, and polls. Also turn larger pillar assets like white papers and ebooks interactive to capture the nuances of your buyers while offering leads a two-way conversation with your content.

CEB, for example, implemented a quiz to help understand the challenges of their leads. Questions like “What is the primary goal for your business transformation?” filled in the blanks for marketers who needed to know more about a buyer’s pain points.

By using interactive content, you give leads a personalized experience while capturing a full breadth of data. If there’s something you’re itching to know about your buyers, just ask.

Adding interactive elements can also improve the lead form process or even eliminate it altogether by offering the typical form questions throughout the content instead of all at once.

3. Keywords and Referrals

Analytics is key to figuring out how your buyers found you. 72% of buyers turn to Google once they have recognized their pain point, but the path from there is unknown. Working backwards through site analytics, you can determine which keywords leads used and how long they stayed on your site. Keywords are pivotal points of data — they connect the dots between your own success at SEO and your buyers’ needs.

Referrals also give you clear feedback on the success of your content marketing and social media campaigns. Be sure to track URL traffic by tagging your shared links with specific IDs so you know where each visitor is coming from. If high-quality leads find you through articles or social shares, you know you’re on the right track!

4. Competitors’ Information

We’ve all taken a look at competitors’ websites, gauging their approach to buyers. Instead of taking a quick, covert spin around their websites, dig into competitors’ content with an eye for buyer data. Answer these questions for each direct competitor:

  • Who are your competitors speaking to?
  • How do you imagine their buyer personas?
  • Do you want to reach the same audience or a different group?
  • Is there anything that these companies are doing poorly or extremely well?

By exploring competitors’ content, you gain insight into their research and strengthen your own awareness. Conducting this practice every quarter ensures you’re staying competitive.

5. Social Listening

As social platforms become invaluable to day-to-day interaction, social listening is a clear way to tune into the voices of your buyers. With a monitoring tool such as Social Mention, TweetDeck, or Hootsuite, you can gain real glimpses into your customers’ feelings about your brand. But don’t stop there — you also want to know about your buyers’ habits, interests, hobbies, and connections. PricewaterhouseCoopers broke down successful social listening into four easy steps:

1. Monitor

Monitor customer action across social platforms and websites. If a lead liked a Facebook post and commented on a blog article, you need to know both — and connect them to the same prospect.

2. Listen

Identify relevant conversations and feedback with one of the tools listed above.

3. Interpret

Explore trends over differing periods of time — both in the short term and the long term — across different groups of people.

4. Transform

Real-time platforms make it easy to consult data when making marketing decisions. Transform these numbers into meaningful conclusions for your team.

6. Interviews

To create buyer personas, consider interviewing some real life clients to gain a deeper understanding of their priorities and needs. As Pamela Vaughan, a principal marketing manager at Hubspot suggested, these conversations should focus on the “why” behind decision making.

When you ask interviewees questions, try to unfurl deeper conversations about motivations, fears, and personalities. Start by interviewing three to five people for each buyer persona, spread out with one interview a week.

If participation is a little scant, take a page from your sales team and offer swag or other rewards for your clients time. Another idea is to offer free use of your service, with the intention of gaining more feedback as they delve into your offerings.

7. Conversations at Events

In the 2015 Content Marketing Institute benchmarks report, marketers listed in-person events as the most effective B2B marketing tactic. Despite the expense of attending conferences, they offer face-to-face interactions and invaluable personal connections.

Keep your ear attuned to data when you speak to leads, making a note of any information that could contribute to your understanding of buyers.

To boost your buyer research, offer booth visitors tablets loaded with quick but engaging content. Cornerstone, a Software-as-a-Service company, offered a fun HR personality quiz at the HR Tech Euro Conference & Expot. They collected 327 leads with a 90% conversion rate for one quiz. Their piece of content filtered a tremendous amount of prospects down the sales funnel, while empowering the marketing team with diversified data on prospects.

Applying Your Research

As new avenues to connect with buyers appear, research techniques will continue to evolve.
However, the core of this connection should always have the aim of creating great experiences for your audience.

As you collect more and more research to help identify personas, needs, and interests make sure it is continually informing your campaigns and content to create a resonants with your buyers through every stage of the funnel. Test different approaches and learn from them. Use new stach tools with a specific goal mapped out.

If lead generation is one of those goals (of course it is!), learn more about how interactive content can fuel your buyer insights and increase lead generation with our interactive infographic!