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Stage 1
Listening Tools
Ensuring that you are listening to your users includes both what they are saying to you, as well as what they are saying to others.
Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4

Listen & Test

According to the PDMA, a lack of understanding of the customer is one of the top reasons for new product failures. This lack of understanding stems from poor market research and not enough customer input guiding the development process. It’s for this reason that the first stage of user-guided design is the most important one. Ensuring that you are listening to your users includes both what they are saying to you, as well as what they are saying to others.
1. Do User Research

Market Research allows you to listen to the general population to pick up on trends and new developments. Listening to your competitors is one way to validate the user feedback you are hearing.

2. Get User Feedback

Once you’ve heard from the market, you want to check back in with your users. At this stage, you are doing concept testing, gathering the feedback from users that you’ll use to develop your requirements.

User Research Tools

Whether you are developing a new-to-market product or enhancing an existing one, have an accurate idea of what’s available in the market and what your competitors are doing are great benchmarks to know what your users are expecting. There are lots of services that allow you to do competitive research, both free and paid.

Knowing your user is the first step in identifying the right research tools. While analytics and reports can segment your users into new, returning, and location data, without a clear, upfront definition of who your users are, it will be impossible to know how to best meet their needs.  Market segments must be unique. The needs, values, or desires from one segment need to be different from that of other groups. If a particular segment responds to marketing programs in the same way as another, then there is no need to differentiate it as its own segment. Typically firms will have 3-4 market segments that they target, but that number can as high as 10-12 depending on your product. A good place to start your segmentation is through zip code lookups. But you’ll also want to add financial and economic data to round out the picture.

“PRIZM® is the industry-leading lifestyle segmentation system that yields rich and comprehensive consumer insights to help you reveal your customer’s preferences. PRIZM combines demographic, consumer behavior, and geographic data to help marketers identify, understand and reach their customers and prospects.”
“Tapestry classifies US neighborhoods into 65 market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic factors, then consolidates them into LifeMode and Urbanization Groups.”
“ is a free service provided by Moody’s Analytics. Free Lunch provides a easy-to-use interface to download financial and economic data from a variety of reliable sources.”
Provides quick information about the general population like statistics and demographics, as well as industry statistics broken down by region. Search for a particular region or go directly to  the American Fact Finder page.

Getting real-world data on people is vital for retail. While you always have the option to count pedestrian and vehicle traffic manually, automated tools can save you time, and often-time can be negotiated into your lease agreement.

“Motionloft is a San Francisco based tech company who provides real time pedestrian and vehicle analytics. Using its sensor network, Motionloft provides its clients with real-time information about how people move around cities. Motionloft sensors are the first to transmit data about pedestrian and vehicle activity in real-time, providing metrics such as time density, pedestrians per block/hour, and up to the minute specifics on a location’s activity.”




Augmenting the general market data with specific competitive research is the next step of the Listening Phase. Adding to keywords, it’s also useful to know other analytics like site traffic, pageviews, bounce rates, and user demographics, as you look to develop value propositions, marketing plans, and go-to-market strategies. We’ve listed a few services below, but also check out Dave Chaffey’s list over at Smart Insights.

BizStats is the home of free, accurate business statistics – well organized and easy to access. Search for industry financial benchmark reports, for industry profitability risk data, and for a selection of other useful industry statistics.
The Securities and Exchange Commission company filing provide information on public companies and can be helpful in understanding financials, company descriptions, management discussions, and competitor’s view of the market risks.
“Quantcast Measure provides accurate, dependable and insightful information about audiences for over 100 million web destinations. For free. With deep demographics, geography, and extensive lifestyle information, Quantcast Measure gives website owners the best understanding of what makes their audiences unique.”
“Compete delivers digital intelligence that helps the world’s top brands improve their marketing based on the online behavior of millions of consumers. Compete’s products and services are fueled by the largest integrated online consumer behavior and survey panel in the industry. Digital insights are interpreted by analytical experts in the automotive, financial services, media, mobile, online, retail, telecom, and travel markets to deliver data and recommendations to create effective online experiences and highly profitable advertising campaigns.”
“We collect massive amounts of SERP data for more than 95 million keywords and 45 million domains, including AdWords ad copies and positions, organic positions for domains and landing URLs, search volumes, CPC, competition, number of results, and so much more.”
Google Trends offers generalized web search information from Google search. It’s most helpful when you are looking to find out which of your competitors’ keywords are driving the highest traffic volume. Adding Google Correlate to your analysis will help you find patterns over timeframes.




While Big Data can be a valuable asset in the Listening Stage, it can be expensive and has the danger of derailing the focus if used incorrectly. No one can argue that gaining access to Facebook’s data of any particular topic could wield amazing insights, though  as you look to refine your concepts as you listen to your users. We will discuss analytics tools in the Launch Stage, but for now, the following are some companies that can provide specific data for your analysis.

“Tableau Public is for anyone who wants to tell stories with interactive data on the web. It’s delivered as a service that allows you to be up and running overnight. With Tableau Public you can create amazing interactive visuals and publish them quickly, without the help of programmers or IT.”
“Harness the Power of Crawl. With the Mozscape API, we put our powerful web crawler and index of over 85 Billion URLs in the palm of your hands. Intelligent metrics. We’ve been building our metrics for years. Now they’re yours. Mozscape serves up intelligent metrics like MozRank, MozTrust, Domain Authority, and Page Authority—all of which help you better understand the value and ranking potential of a domain or webpage. URL data. You want URL data. Mozscape has it. From a count of linking root domains to URL anchor texts to the number of followed, no-followed, internal, and external links—it’s all there. If you’re looking for URL data, you’re in the right place.”




Knowing what keywords your competitors are using not only helps you know what they are focusing on in paid search, but also can help identify potential areas where you can leverage a competitive advantage. Learning from what your competitors have done, will also help you decrease your time-to-market and save on your budget. Tools like PPC campaign analysis will help guide your own efforts as you look at timeframes and CPC data.

“SpyFu exposes the search marketing secret formula of your most successful competitors. Search for any domain and see every place they’ve shown up on Google: every keyword they’ve bought on Adwords, every organic rank, and every ad variation in the last 6 years.”
“Through this keyword tool and keyword software, you can perform advanced keyword research and keyword tracking to study what your competitors have been advertising in their Adwords campaigns and Other PPC campaigns. You can now get complete in-depth analysis, stats, budget, affiliates & ad copies of your competitors.”
“Alexa is the leading provider of free, global web metrics. Search Alexa to discover the most successful sites on the web by keyword, category, or country. Use our analytics for competitive analysis, benchmarking, market research, or business development. Use Alexa’s Pro tools to optimize your company’s presence on the web.”
Google Display Planner allows you to  “get details about specific placements, such as accepted Google Display Network ad formats and sizes, visitor demographics, and how the placement is classified by topic.” All available from your AdWords profile.

User Feedback Tools

Getting feedback from your users starts with aggregated analytics. This helps identify potential issues that you’ll want to explore directly with your users. The goal of getting user feedback in the listening stage is to determine the “what,” not the “how.” Validating issues, roadblocks with current solutions, and verifying needs can all be done using the following tactics

Getting in front of your user is invaluable. Accurately defining your potential user’s problems is the most important step in the Listening Stage, and interviews expedite that process tremendously. While it can be intimidating if you’ve never done one, interviews are something anyone can do. Remember, it’s not a sales pitch or PR visit. This is your time to get to know your users and to allow them to guide your development efforts.

Running Lean by Ash Maurya is at the top of our recommended reading list, and has a great section on conducting interviews.  On his website, Ash has a great framework for how to conduct interviews.

For a more in-depth look at the techniques and tools that can help you master the art of interviewing, Steve Portigal’s book is a must-read.

Conjoint analysis is a quantitative research method where participants are asked to make a series of trade-offs in order to determine what’s most important to them. 




Surveys are another great way to get user data. We recommend limiting open-ended questions, placing demographic questions at the end, using a Likert Scale, and limiting the completion time to no more than 10 min. There are lots of companies that can help you conduct a survey. The majority of those have example surveys that you can use as a template if you are not sure where to start.

Our favorite survey tool, “SurveyMonkey is the world’s most popular online survey tool. It’s easier than ever to send free surveys, polls, questionnaires, customer feedback and market research. Plus get access to survey questions and professional templates.”




In addition to the areas mentioned above, there are other concept testing tools that we’ve used to validate initial concepts. It’s important to remember that an idea is not a product. People are naturally resistant to change, and so new concepts need to be significantly “better” than existing products in order to overcome that bias. For that reason, we recommend focusing on what makes a concept different and not what makes it better. The purpose of the tests is to be able to group and rank the features and help prioritize the planning and development stages.

A part of Zurb’s app suite, “Verify is the fastest way to collect and analyze user feedback on screens or mockups. We collect the data for you in real-time from anywhere. View and sort through the results by demographics, against any control or any device.”
“GutCheck is an on-demand market research solution that delivers real-time insights from specific customers with quality that is equivalent to traditional on-line vehicles. Unlike these offerings that can challenge timelines and budgets, GutCheck’s laser-focused services and advanced tools provide the required knowledge in days instead of weeks and offer the best value for the research dollar.”
“Qualvu will help you find your truth. We call ourselves pioneers. Pioneers in insight. Pioneers in research design. Pioneers in technology. Continuously improving, adapting, and evolving. Pushing boundaries, striving to deliver our clients the best research possible. And we’re delivering. New insights from new places. Richer, deeper, better data through mobile video diaries … your customer, in their homes, in the store, on the go. Wherever their lives take them.”
“dscout is a web and mobile service that makes it incredibly easy to engage audiences in sharing real-world experiences, in the moment ideas and real-time feedback. We think in-context research can and should be, an essential part of how organizations large and small understand and engage with their audiences.”
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