When you ask a linguist what the most common question they get asked is, you’re most likely going to hear “how many languages do you speak?” This questions isn’t a bad or wrong question, but it showcases how focused the image of linguistics is to many people. I mean, just take a quick search for “linguistic jobs” and you’ll see many of them are translation/transcription work. This idea is definitely in need of a refresh.
Just take a look at your Siri or Alexa voice assistant. While lots of people work on helping Alexa order you things on Amazon, linguist- specifically natural language processing linguists- are a key part in many companies automated speech recognition development. They make sure that “Order me more detergent” doesn’t order you “more deodorant”.
So besides tech, what focus should we be thinking of instead? One big area linguistics can provide value to is marketing and market research. But how? Simply put- by focusing on how you communicate with your market base.
Understanding Your Market
Any marketer will tell you that a pivotal part of creating a useful campaign is understanding who you’re targeting and how to appeal to them. Traditional qualitative and quantitative research is a staple in any market research arsenal, but why not take these methods one step further by looking at how your customers are communicating their wants, needs, and interactions with your product.
Discourse analysis, a focus of sociolinguistics study, can uncover underlying tones, meanings, and uses of language that can unearth a steadfast consumer base, or a shifting target. In turn, this has an ancillary effect on messaging tone and implication, which evolve over time once a deeper understanding is achieved. In many cases, each targeted vertical could utilize a linguistic analysis as leverage for AB testing, and message resonation.
Materials and Messaging
After having a basis of how your customers are communicating with you, now it’s time to communicate with them through your materials and messaging. There are plenty of ways to test ad options, educational materials, and messaging for example with focus groups and a/b testing. However, are you truly getting everything you can out of those tests? One way is through corpus linguistics.
Corpus linguistics or computational linguistics finds patterns and trends that uncover the impact of what you’re trying to say, and a lot of the times, what you shouldn’t say. In a marketing aspect the data captured here is instrumental in informing and guiding the team’s strategy in both outbound and inbound efforts. Whether it be a client or partnership, analyzing feedback data can shed light on new opportunities.
After tirelessly testing your market, crafting your messaging and materials, it would be such a shame for it all to go to waste based on sales staff who are speaking at odds with your customer base. So how do you fix it?
Utilizing all the messaging testing and market research work already completed, linguistic training can equip your sales force with humanized, personable, and relatable language that makes your customers feel understood, not pushed into making a decision. Also, informed business development members can benefit by further understanding client problems, to provide the solution they are looking for.
So- why haven’t you been solving your problems with linguistics already?
Interested in learning more about sociolinguistics in market research?
Shannon Sysko is an Analyst at Verilogue. She completed her BA and MA from the University of Delaware, focusing on Applied Linguistics. When she’s not analyzing what people say and how they say it, she enjoys traveling and marathoning TV shows.
Verilogue offers fly-on-the-wall access to candid healthcare conversations between patients and their healthcare providers. Verilogue’s trained linguists analyze these dialogues using their expertise, and provide unique insights for our clients. Reach out with questions or comments via the below form!.