Consumer insights are the foundation of every successful brand strategy. The building blocks of developing consumer insights generally include: exploring customers and their needs, segmenting the market, optimizing concepts and finalizing the offering. This broad-to-narrow, quantitative-to-qualitative pattern works across virtually every industry.

Here are 4 proven methods for developing powerful consumer insights:

Exploratory research is used to explore and frame key aspects of the consumer and category. Exploratory research has many uses, and can a play a role in establishing value propositions, refining a brand position, establishing customer journey maps and developing new products. Focus is on understanding, from the eyes of the consumers, the “hows, whats and whys”. Questioning starts very broad – what are customer needs, motivations, attitudes and fiction points – and then narrows – gain insight into the optimal solution. It’s easy to get this insight, by observing or simply asking consumers. Sources include in-depth customer interviews, focus groups, ethnographic research, and so on.

Segmentation research is used to prepare the customer framework, profiling segments, their needs, motivations and other factors. Segmentation is vital in determining where-to-play, and can be done both qualitatively or quantitatively, with the last method useful in marketing sizing. When developing a segmentation, take a broad view, including current customers and potential customers. It’s fine to ultimately not target certain customers, only after viewing a complete category view, to understand tradeoffs.

Concept research is used to obtain market feedback on individual growth opportunities, through the form of testable ideas. It’s difficult for consumers to create marketing ideas on their own. Consumers are great, though, at reacting to ideas in concept form. Use focused ideation to create concepts – written statements, drawings, website mock-ups, prototypes. Next, obtain feedback from consumers. Finally, incorporate the feedback into better, more refined ideas. Unlike exploratory research used to frame problems, concept research emphasizes the solution – what’s the best way to win?

Quantitative projections are used to validate growth opportunity areas. As product concepts begin to take shape, trade-offs need to be made in finalizing the offering. What are specific product features most appealing at which price point? A variety of statistical techniques are available, including discrete choice modeling, conjoint analysis and trade-off analysis. These methods begin to transition to downstream marketing, in moving toward implementation.

Developing powerful consumer insights is a key component of upstream marketing. Mastering insight development will allow your organization to make things people want vs. making people want things.