Getting to know your customer

Getting to know your customer

Relationships take time. Sure, there’s the old adage of love at first sight, but let’s all be honest. In a month, you’re questioning that spark when he won’t stop cracking his knuckles every ten minutes. In a year, you realize you’re not going to change his mind about being a Michigan fan. And when you move in together, it’s when you realize he’s never going to mop a floor. Ever. Although these things shouldn’t come as a surprise, they do because you were too busy being in love to ask questions.

The relationship your business has with its customers is no different than any personal relationship. It takes time to develop, and it requires constant attention. That’s why research is something that should not be treated as a checkbox–—a one and done. In order to understand your customers’ needs, behaviors and wants, a business should always be asking questions.

The Benefits of Customer Research

Research not only allows a business to validate its assumptions on its customers but also opens the door to learn something new. It may be learning what drives customers to purchase, the type of products and/or services they need or why they shop at a competitor.

It also helps you to market your business more effectively. What you know about your customers sets the tone for the relationship. It tells you the best way to connect with them –—whether it’s how you present your product or simply the channel you use to communicate.

Getting Started

At first, I found research intimidating. I was too worried about asking the wrong questions to focus on asking the right questions. The first step to overcoming these jitters is to develop a clear objective. Ask yourself, “What do I want to learn from this research?”

Sample objective:
To understand why dog owners choose to buy dog food from their current provider.

The next step is to identify who you want to survey. It is important to make sure you are asking the right questions of the right people. In this example, I would survey purchasers of dog food and segment them by current and prospect customers.

Finally, once you’ve identified what you want to learn and from whom, you are able to start shaping a survey to get the answers you need. In this instance, you would ask questions that focus on the respondents’ current provider such as why they chose that provider and what might encourage them to try a new a provider, to name a few.

Survey Methods

Research can be expensive, but there are ways to learn more about your customers on a budget. One of the ways to do this is by using online survey tools such as Survey Monkey. For a nominal fee, you can create your own survey within the tool to send via email. It has reports that are automatically generated based on the results, and you are able to export the data into Excel. The advantages of using a tool like this allow you to get a high sample of respondents in a short time period.

Another inexpensive way to collect data is to go on site visits. This is when you visit customers in their environment to ask questions that support your research objective. Typically, these visits are no longer than a half hour and require compensation to customers for their time. Although these visits are great to dig deeper into your topic, you typically get a small sample size, so it is recommended that you complement this type of research with a survey to validate your findings.

Getting to know your customer is not hard, but it does take time. If you do it right, before you know it, you won’t be questioning the spark anymore; you’ll be anticipating it.

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