Whether starting a business or trying to grow and expand your existing business, there is undoubtedly going to be ton of research involved. From staying on top of industry trends to better understanding your competitors; from determining best pricing to your legal designation… there is a lot to learn! But with all of this research of getting your business up and running (or expanded), you may be missing the most important piece of the puzzle – your customer.
Understanding your current and potential customers needs, desires, frustrations and challenges is what will set your offering a part from your competitors. The more you know, the more successful you’ll be. So, how can you find out what will best resonate with your customers? Research, of course. These tips will help you.
Surefire Ways to Get to Know Your Customers
To start, you’re going to do a bit of analysis on your own and then figure out how to best interact with your customers in order to gather data with the tips below, then you’ll be ready to start conducting surveys to further the process.
1. Analyze Your Product
Start with products or services you offer. If you’re an existing business and you’ve been offering your services for some time, this will be easy. If you’re just getting started, you’ll need to brainstorm a bit.
Take one product or service and write down a list of its features. Beside each feature, write the benefit that it provides for the customer. The difference here between features and benefits is that a feature is some quality or part of the product itself. The benefit, on the other hand, is the subsequent effect it has on the purchaser’s life.
For example, let’s imagine that your business provides a new kind of content management system (CMS). The CMS allows people to work together remotely and updates in real-time. That’s its feature. The result is that your workforce can be spread across the globe but informed about what’s going on as soon as it happens, thus increasing your business’s efficiency. This is the benefit.
For each benefit that you list, ask yourself: Who does this feature benefit? In the above example, it benefits businesses which are either international in scale, or that hire virtual assistants in other parts of the world.
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2. Look at Existing Customer Data
If you’re already running your business, take a look at existing customer data. Your existing customer data offers a valuable shortcut to understanding who your customers are. You may be planning to expand or better target your services, but you can still get some clues by looking at existing customers.
Thus far in your business, what products or services are selling the best among your existing customers? Are there any differences at different times during the year or business cycle? How have buying patterns changed over time? Consider which customers buy the most from you and those from whom you’ve received positive feedback and referrals.
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3. Analyze the Market
If you’re a new business that doesn’t currently have a base of existing customers, or if you’re shifting your offerings completely, you can learn some things by analyzing the general market. Start with associations in your industry. See if you can find any demographic data they’ve done. Look for trade reports, census data, published survey results, white papers, and so on.
You can also learn valuable information by researching your competition. Who do they target and serve? Are there segments of the market that they underserve? One way to do this easily is to “stalk” your competition by following them on social media, reading their blog, watching their YouTube videos, and so on. Look at the comments, reviews and other feedback from customers. You can get an idea of who your competitors serve and also how their customers feel about their service.
One more way to get ideas is to use your intuition. Ask yourself:
- Who do you envision to be your ideal customer?
- Who would you like to be your ideal customer?
- What demographic groups are most likely to buy from you, and which ones aren’t likely to buy?
- What challenges, problems, questions, or pain will your product or service help them solve?
- How do they feel about the products they buy?
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4. Start Interacting
Next, you have to make a plan for how you’re going to interact with your market. The internet makes it easier than ever to get in touch with your customer base and there are many easy and free ways to do this.
Email is a relatively old method for reaching customers. Long before there were Facebook and Twitter, there was email. And although new means of communication are continually appearing, email is still the old standby. People still pay more attention to email messages from companies they patronize than anywhere else online.
There are several ways to connect with your customers through email. The standard is to ask for their email at the point of sale, promising them deals, news, discounts, and other exclusives they can only get through email. In addition to special offers, it’s good to send a customer newsletter. This is a way of keeping in touch and it then doesn’t seem abrupt if you contact them out of the blue asking them to do a survey. It’s also a way to boost post-purchase sales through the exclusive deals you offer.
As part of the content that you send your customers through email, you can also elicit feedback by asking questions or providing a way for them to reach you.
By simply having an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or other social media sites, you can keep in steady contact with your customers. However, it’s even better to get further involved with social media, joining forums, groups, and discussions.
While you’re using social media, you can also conduct research on your customers. You can look at their profiles, see what’s trending, see what other businesses they like or follow, see what content is most popular, and so on. Look especially for gaps where needs aren’t being met and what other similar solutions are being offered.
The internet offers many easy and convenient ways to interact with your customers, but face-to-face interaction is still the most authentic. Take any opportunity possible to actually meet your customers offline at conferences, training events, local community events, trade shows, and so on.
For example, if you hold a booth at a trade show or conference, as part of the stand you can offer a survey on an iPad. The iPad makes it easy and hassle-free for the attendee to take your survey and also easy for you to analyze the results. You may offer some small gift item, freebie, or even a cup of coffee as a way to say “thanks” for taking the time.
Once you have moved forward to better understand your customers with these tips, then it’s time to administer customer surveys. You’ll know your customers in no time! In the meantime, I have created this helpful worksheet to get you going in the right direction. Click below to sign up and download it.