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Getting to Know Your Customers: A Key to Staying Relevant
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In business, we often THINK we are all about the customer, but many of us are really missing the mark.

Though I hope you don’t wait for a national holiday to know the ins and outs of your customers, I DO hope that you’ll take this opportunity to really get to know your customer.

Here are some suggestions to get to know the people behind the credit card:

  1. For starters, create what I call a customer profile.  Look back at 10% of your most recent customers.  For some of you that might be only 10 clients (i.e. if you are in a high-end service based business).  For others of you, that might be 100 clients (i.e. if you are a product based or lower price point).  Go through your customers and document any information you DO have.  Look at the male/female percentage split of customer purchases, document the locations (do you have a local business, regional business or national business); and if you know ages and interests, mark those as well.  Sometimes we can create a reverse target market by figuring out who is ACTUALLY buying your products.  This can give you valuable (and often surprising) insights.  These insights can be used to hone your marketing, select the right mediums and outlets for your advertising, and help you create content for your site or blog.
  2. Ask for feedback IN PERSON or ON THE PHONE.  Customers like to know that you value them and their input.  What might seem scary or intimidating can give you VERY candid and valuable feedback.  If you have a retail location, you can ask people when they come into your store if they have been there before.  That could give you some good information about what percentage of your customers are repeat business.  I was shocked a couple of months ago when I purchased a new domain and GoDaddy actually had a live body call me and ask me if I had any questions about how to get my domain hosted or if I needed help with graphic design needs.  The customer service rep was NOT overly salesy but asked me some questions about my purchase and inquired about how they might fill future needs.  Not only did they get valuable feedback to get to know their ideal customer, but the fact that they were interested in my experience made me feel valued as a customer (and here I am writing about them in an article…)
  3. Ask for feedback via a survey.  Emails are great, and snail mail can work well, too.  This can be done easily with Survey Monkey or even a Google Doc.  Have a mix of open ended questions (where responses are more than a yes or no) and closed ended questions.  Pre-planned questions can help guide answers, instead of just asking, “How did you like your purchase?”  Also, when you ask about their experience, you can also ask three or four demographic questions to help you get to know your customer better.  Ask for their age (standard ranges are 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64 and 65+), ask if they have kids at home (if you have a family based product or service) or ask how long they have been in business (if you are in a B2B business).  Ask geographic information (like the state) if that is valuable information.
  4. Ask questions on Facebook or Twitter.  Though I don’t think it’s statistically accurate, you can get good feedback and insights through social media.  Not everyone will see your question or survey, but the answers that you DO get can be valuable.  I also like using social media for engagement and not just pushing sales messages.  In fact, sales updates and tweets should be less than 15% of your posts.  Show up to serve and ENGAGE through social media so that you can utilize these outlets to educate, engage and get to know your customer.

Next, after you have all this data, ask yourself a powerful question: “Is the customer I’m attracting the customer I really want?”  For most of you, the answer (I hope) will be, “Yes!” But if some of you are looking at your customer profile and noticing that you are attracting college students, but your product is really meant for baby boomers then perhaps you need to look at your positioning and marketing messages.  Nothing is worse than getting sales from the WRONG customer because they won’t be happy and they won’t purchase from you again.

Finally, know that customer service and knowing your customer is an ongoing process. Ask questions regularly so you can keep up with trends in the industry and buying trends of your customers.  Things change, times change, and you’ll find yourself out of business if you aren’t keeping up on what your customers really want.

Make a wish, make it happen!

Originally posted on The UPS Store Small Business Blog on April 19, 2013.

Category: Business Insights
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