Marketers are more sophisticated than ever. From analytics to real-time marketing, we have a wealth of technologies at our disposal to accomplish any goal.

At the end of the day, what we want is quite straightforward – the ability to reach the right audiences at exactly the right time in their buying journeys.

There is a key piece of this puzzle, however, that you can’t afford to overlook – the right messaging.

People are incentive driven. Above looking at knowing what we’re buying, we want to know what we’re going to get from our investments.

As a marketer, your job is to make sure that your brand’s messaging resonates with what your audiences want. But how do you know whether you’re striking the right balance – especially since there’s only one of you and lots of different customers. Instead of throwing darts in the dark, harness these high-impact research techniques instead:

Step 1 : Look at your Analytics Tools

Google Analytics will give you a high-level view of your customers’ user behavior trends. Other business intelligence resources will empower you with person-level data. No matter what tool you’re using, you’ll be well-positioned to answer two key questions about your users:

(1) What's up?

(2) Who's doing it?

These questions will be your starting point. Once you have your bearings, you need to take the next step – to understand why these trends exist.

The immediate question that comes to mind is why these audiences are signing up directly. What pain points were they hoping to solve? What were their initial expectations? How did this experience align with their brand experience?

Analytics will provide a frame of reference to help you understand what business questions you should be asking.

Step 2 : Conduct Qualitative Research

The beauty of qualitative research is two-fold:

(1) It's as structured or unstructured as you want it to be

(2) You don't need to collect a specified number of responses

Qualitative research can be as simple as a few 1:1 conversations here and there -- or a formal analysis (with a report and everything).

No matter your approach, the goal is always the same. Look for patterns --feedback that surfaces and resurfaces, conversation after conversation.

Step 3 : Talk to Strangers

Your customers and friends probably like you already -- and it’s tough to deliver harsh feedback to someone that you care about.

The solution here?

Talk to people who have absolutely nothing to do with you or your company. Ask them to be blunt.

Apart from picking the brains of random smart people on the Internet, harness the power of technology. If you’re running a B2C company, a tool like UserTesting can help you connect with audiences in your target segments. can connect you with sophisticated, B2B-facing experts.

Step 4 : Lurk and Listen Between the lines

You hear what your customers and target audiences are saying -- but what aren’t they saying?

Smart marketers know how to listen between the lines. Whenever possible, pay attention to non-verbal cues, and listen to narratives as much as you’re listening to stories.

This strategy can be applied to any form of communication -- written or verbal

Step 5 : Monitor Negative Feedback

You’re probably excited when you see traffic to your webpage and open rates on your email newsletters. These small milestones are enough to empower any caring marketer with a burst of absolute delight.

Seek out the opposite experience by looking for negative triggers too. Look at your opt-out and abuse complain rates from your email marketing software, for instance.

These numbers, analyzed as trends, will help you identify specific areas of improvement. You already know what you’re doing right, so hunt down feedback about what you’re doing wrong too.

Step 6 : Think Long-Term

Your customer relationships are ongoing -- their perspectives may change over time. One conversation won’t be enough to capture nuances or changes over time.

Make sure that you keep the conversation open -- work with a select group of customers to collect consistent feedback. Maintain a very rigorous open-door policy.

When it comes to feedback, don't be afraid to seek out more.

Step 7 : Talk to Your Sales

Your account executives and client service team are constantly on the ground floor, talking to clients and prospects. These externally facing engines likely have a clear understanding of what your target customers want -- their jobs are to do qualitative research each and every day.

Many marketing teams are completely disjointed from their sales counterparts. Don’t let this happen to your organization. Your client-facing groups are invaluable for information gathering.

Final Thoughts : Never Stop Listening

Marketing is a constant process of testing, iterating, refining, and learning. No matter what you have going on, you should never stop listening to help your company learn and grow. Your message is something that you can perpetually revise and refine. The more you strive to improve, the more you’ll rock as marketers.