I wrote an article recently about understanding who your customers really are to ensure you could sell to them better. Although a vital first step on the road to growing your business without increasing expenditure, sadly, knowing the answer to this won’t solve all of your problems overnight.
Instead, now that you know who your customers are, you need to take the next step and find out what they want from a service like yours. This a much more complicated task, and it does require a bit of legwork from yourself to make it work.
You see, customers are less loyal and trusting than they used to be, and thanks to social media and comparison sites they have a lot more power than they used to. They aren’t tied to one option, and in times of economic uncertainty (such as the impending Brexit) they are more interested in flexible service options than products. Without understanding this new, complex customer, you don’t have much hope of growing your business. So how does the humble business owner tackle this problem, and understand exactly what their customers want?
STAND IN YOUR CUSTOMERS SHOES
I have a little exercise here for you. Close your eyes and take a minute to step away from yourself and your business. Instead, look at the world from a customers point of view and stand in their shoes. Think about their toughest questions, favourite parts of their day, and their personal and professional budgets. Daydream about their morning commute, their dinner plans and their approach to business. Make a concerted effort to look beyond your core business and understand your customers full range of choices, as well as their ecosystem of suppliers, partners and more. This exercise is designed to separate what you think your customers want from what they actually want, and provided you are honest with yourself and don’t just pretend all they want is your solution, it should be quite enlightening.
EXHIBIT AT A TRADE SHOW
This may seem like more of a sales generation exercise than a customer understanding one but bear with me. At trade shows, you speak to a lot of complete strangers about your business, and the data you can gather from them is amazing. You’ll get in front of people who are not your customers, and the questions they ask and how they perceive your offering is invaluable. As well as listening to what they ask, use the opportunity to ask some questions yourself. Prospective buyers are likely to be the most honest, as they haven’t developed a relationship with you yet. So when you ask them what they look for in service X, they will give you an honest answer.
FOLLOW THEM ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Not in a creepy, stalkerish way, but more in a general observation way. First off, following your customers on social media is just good practice, and it will make them feel valued by you. But moreover, you can keep an eye on what they’re doing in their day to day lives by following them on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. This helps you figure out what they’re sharing, why they’re sharing it, how connected they are and what other services they use. This gives you an insight into their minds and helps you see what they value from service providers. You can then use that information to improve your own services.
CATALOGUE REQUESTS, COMPLAINTS AND COMPLIMENTS
You can’t figure out what your customers actually want unless you keep a comprehensive list. Every time a customer tells you something, asks you a question or registers any sort of emotional response to your service, make a note of it (even if it’s negative). Keep it all in a spreadsheet or a CRM system, and periodically comb through the data to see what issues keep cropping up.
Of course, the best way to find out what your customers want is to ask them! If you have a good relationship with your customers, you might be able to do this over coffee as a friendly chat, but if you have lots of customers this can become very time intensive very quickly. Instead, things like surveys, feedback forms and short email requests can all give you an insight into the customer experience, and you will be getting all of that valuable data straight from the horse’s mouth.
Some of these points might seem a little obvious, but you would be amazed how many business owners don’t spend time analysing their customer and their needs when designing new products. As a business coach, I work with business owners who want to grow their business, helping them understand their customer and how to extract the most value from each existing and new customer, by delivering the services they want instead of what the business owner thinks they want.
For more information about identifying what your customers really want, get in touch with me today.