Relying on guesswork and assumptions can be devastating for a business and hinder its ability to grow. Gut feelings are valuable for inspiration and creativity, but when it comes to knowing your customers, the hunches are best left at home.
Knowing what your customers really want is essential to scaling your business and allowing it room to expand. The more you can get inside your customers’ heads, think like them and understand their deep desires, the more you can fulfill their needs. Meeting their needs and providing them tailored solutions will cause them to naturally gravitate towards your business.
Learning More About Customer Needs & Wants
It can take some time and dedication to research and uncover your customers’ wants and needs. Because of this, some businesses either don’t perform this necessary research, or they don’t execute it fully. However, not doing this due diligence could result in lost sales and money, as ongoing customer research goes hand in hand with company growth.
How do you learn what your customers want? Here are some strategies you can start implementing today:
Create buyer personas
A buyer persona is a fictional character that represents your ideal customer. Use buyer personas to guide your decisions around everything from marketing strategies, new product development, existing product improvement, and more. Wherever your customers have influence is where you should reflect on your buyer personas before making decisions. Would they approve of your decision? What are their needs? Would this person read your content? Apply these personas to everything you put out there online and offline.
Typically, businesses create a few personas, but depending on your industry, you can create multiple. Beware of creating too many, though, as it could dilute your target audience too much and negatively affect your campaigns. The purpose of creating buyer personas is to get super clear on who your customers are. Focus only on the people you think will be your ideal customer and stop there.
A buyer persona may include the following customer details as they apply to your business:
Strong buyer personas are based on detailed, effective research. To create valuable buyer personas, here are some strategies you can use:
- Social behavior – Research social profiles and sites where your target may hang out and observe their behavior and conversations.
- Demographics – If you have a Facebook business page, use Facebook’s Audience Insights tool to view your fans’ demographics information.
- Sales team – Glean insights from your sales team on which characteristics are most prominent among the people with whom they interact.
- Customer interviews – Don’t be afraid to interview your customers. Many will be happy you took the time to consider their opinions. To capture these interviews, email your subscribers and/or offer an incentive in-store to talk to your customers for a few minutes and get their feedback. Give them your direct email, so they feel you are personally invested in them and their needs.
If you want to know what your customers want, the quickest and easiest way to get this information is to ask them.
Encourage Them to Get Involved
Your customers may not be comfortable sharing their thoughts. Some may think you do not want to hear negative feedback on your company. As a result, they may withhold information. Honest feedback is necessary, however, to really get inside the minds of your customers to determine exactly what they want and need.
Regularly encourage your customers to offer feedback and give them several vehicles to do this easily and efficiently. If your company culture embodies openness and integrity, let your customers know you are open to their opinions as it will help you meet their needs better.
Some ways you can encourage your customers to share are:
- Market research – Are you developing a new product? Improving an existing one? Get your customers involved in the process. Ask them for their opinions and invite them to be an integral part of your product research process and development.
- Social media – Encourage your customers to share their thoughts on social media. This may happen naturally as social platforms are conducive to this type of communication. Even if you are already receiving feedback on your social profiles, go the extra mile and encourage feedback by asking specific questions about your products.
- In-store communication – If you have a retail store, communicate with your customers in person and find out how they feel about your products. On receipts and registers, include ways for your customers to provide feedback anonymously as well since not every person will be comfortable speaking face to face.
- Surveys - Survey your customers and ask them questions about your products and your company. Incentivize your survey to give them a compelling reason to participate.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to conduct surveys is to facilitate them through interactive voice response or IVR. IVR is a technology that will allow you to connect with your customers via voice message and send surveys to all of the customers in your phonebook. Customers can respond to your questions with their answers by easily pressing a key on their keypad. Depending on the interactive voice response provider, you can gather your customers’ responses and analyze and manage this data easily, all from one interface.
Tip: If you have different personas or segments of customers, send different surveys to each segment, so your surveys are more tailored to their needs. You may not have all of your customers segmented into your persona categories, however. In this case, choose a few that you know are exact representations of your personas and customize the survey to include questions that relate to each persona’s lifestyle and desires. Even if you get a few responses, this targeted feedback is valuable. These responses will give you more detailed and specific information than you would not have received from sending one general survey to all of your targets.
Speak to the team members who interact with your customers and potential customers directly. Ask your customer service personnel what positive or negative feedback they regularly hear from your customers. Start a repository your support personnel can add to whenever they feel they have stumbled upon important customer feedback.
If you run a business and you feel you are not aware of your customers wants and needs as much as you could be, get into the trenches yourself and talk to them directly. If you own a retail store, become a salesperson for a week, and interact with your customers directly so you can get a better feel for their wants and needs. Join the customer support team and/or sales team and temporarily fill a role that has direct access to your customers. Listen and observe, and you may come back with important nuggets of customer research.
Don’t Avoid The Negative
Negative feedback is just as valuable as positive feedback. In some cases, it can be even more valuable. If a customer chose to buy from your competitor, don’t avoid speaking to them or asking them questions. This information could be valuable feedback that may help you improve your products and maybe win back some customers and prevent them from buying from your competition.
Create negative buyer personas as well so you can identify who you should not target. Though these are the people you do not want to be your customers, knowing who they are is still valuable. For example, if you sell costume jewelry, a couture jewelry buyer is not someone who would fit your customer personas. Reflect on these negative personas when you roll out new products or campaigns, as your main goal is to avoid targeting them.
Keep It Up!
Are you finished after you have implemented all of these strategies? No! Customer research is ongoing. Industries change. People change. Desires change. You must change with your industry to understand what your customers want. Implement these strategies as ongoing items, and take notice of the industry changes that occur so you can apply this research gold to your business decisions and campaigns over time.
Don’t leave your business growth up to guesswork and hunches. Scaling a business requires getting into the minds and thoughts of your target audience, and while this is not always easy, following some of these strategies will allow you to tip the scales in your favor.
As mentioned, one of the easiest ways to get valuable information from your customers is to send them a survey. And one of the most efficient and non-invasive ways to do that is with interactive voice response. With interactive voice response, you can send your voice surveys to all of your customers within seconds and easily review and manage the responses so you can use this data to influence key business decisions. Setting up interactive voice response is easy. To get the process started, simply sign up for a free account here.