Do you truly know your customer?
Many businesses say yes, but then struggle to understand how to effectively communicate with them using a message that resonates well.
The best Marketing comes from starting with your customer’s needs and this entails finding out as much about them as possible.
One of the best approaches is to ask them directly - but how do you get the right information from them?
Here are my 8 tips for helping your business gain the most insight from your customers
Competition is increasing, the marketplace is getting louder and your customers are changing.
So - how is your business keeping up with this?
After conducting some in-depth round-table discussions as a Marketing Consultant recently, it reiterated to me the importance of speaking directly with real customers to uncover important insights and make better business decisions.
Who better to ask than them, right?
After all, businesses are successful when they:
Sounds pretty straight-forward? It’s certainly not ground-breaking. However, it’s not that easy either.
The limited customer perspective
In my previous blog, Are you asking your customers too much?, I explained that on the surface, customers are an excellent source of raw information; but that doesn’t mean that their answers alone are sufficient.
This is because people are coming from the point of view of a customer (of course!).
All they see (understandably) is their own need when it arises and how they then go about making a purchase. While this is a crucial insight into their buying journey, they don’t necessarily understand everything it takes to deliver these solutions.
This means that, as a Marketer, you have to conduct these sessions and learn to effectively interpret your findings into practical and actionable outcomes.
Customer feedback and suggestions may come from a good place, but it doesn’t mean you can take it all at face value. It should encourage you to consider their answers to make more informed decisions.
As an example: learning from your customers
In my recent sessions, Doctors explained that their receptionists were struggling to keep up with the number of people walking in to see a GP, and this was creating a bad experience for everyone involved – a genuine problem.
The Doctors suggested installing an automated check-in kiosk facility at the Medical Centre. This may seem like a good solution, but you have to weigh up everything that goes along with this, such as software, training, synching with your systems, expenses and if people will actually use them. The kiosk wasn’t the answer.
However, this spurred us to take that concept further and develop a Smartphone app instead that patients can install on their own devices (or use via a website) to check themselves in instead. Suddenly, we have a much more practical and effective solution along the same lines – all of which started by asking.
This is one example of many.
Asking customers for their feedback can improve your marketing
But you have to screen their answers through a ‘business’ lens and work out how the mechanics of the business can meet their needs, if it’s practical and if there is enough demand to generate a Return On Investment (ROI).
So, how do you get the most out of customer feedback?
Here are 8 of the best tips I can offer to help you get the most asking customers directly:
(1) Start with Personas
Head to HubSpot and download their Personas template here.
This is an effective tool to pick your own brain about who your potential customers are and what information you need to know about them. You’ll be surprised how much you do actually know when prompted with the right questions.
When you begin here, you will find that you can sharpen your focus and decide who you want to learn more about – as opposed to just guessing.
Getting people together is not an easy task. So, you want to ensure you’re investing your efforts towards the customers you actually want to talk to.
(2) Invite a mix of different people
Once you have defined the ideal customer using the Persona tool, try and invite a wide variety of people who belong to that group.
For example: if you are looking at final year university students who are studying finance, then seek out a good spread of women and men from different age groups and different backgrounds.
This will help you to get a far more holistic understanding.
(3) Conduct an anonymous survey first
Going in cold to a customer focus group can feel a little intimidating for everyone, which may make people close up. So, begin with an online survey a week before.
This spurs their knowledge and provides a nice introduction to warm them up. It also gives you a platform upon which to run the session by using some of their initial responses as talking points.
(4) "We're listening"
Nothing frustrates both your customers and teams than empty lip-service with no follow-up or substance to it. It also makes the process a complete waste of time.
Set the tone from the very start: the reason why you are reaching out to them is because you genuinely care about their feedback and will take their suggestions on-board in an attempt to improve.
Then, don’t just say you’ll make changes. Take action and prove it. Your attitude to the process makes a big difference on many levels.
(5) Make it a safe environment
Some people may feel intimidated when the actual team from the business is present and listening. This can potentially get them to hesitate and hold back their answers, which is counterproductive.
Instead, hire an external consultant who you trust, and then leave the room so that participants can feel completely safe about sharing and being honest.
(6) Have set questions and probe answers
I find that a nice balance of structured and impromptu discussions allow you to draw out the best information from people.
When talking to customers, have a standard set of questions in a script to guide your conversation to the right place, and then encourage them to elaborate on their unique answers. If they mention something interesting, ask them to explain more and improvise until you get the insight you were after.
Then return back to your set questions again to keep things on track.
(7) Encourage everyone
Every customer has a voice that you want to listen to. However, there can be loud members of the group and others who feel a bit shy about sharing. What you really want is a mix of everyone’s feedback to draw out the overall key learnings and obtain a diverse set of answers.
So, keep the discussions small and relaxed, while encouraging participation.
If you have a sizable group, then break them up into smaller groups where people feel more comfortable about expressing their own ideas.
(8) Demonstrate progress
After you’ve spoken to customers and found the information you were looking for to improve, then report back and explain what you’ve found or what you’ve done.
It’s a great excuse to touch base and prove your commitment to providing better products and experiences to your audience.
Plus, I shouldn’t have to even say that when you take action based on your research, then you’re likely to be improving your own business too.
Don’t forget your customer
While I still believe that your customer’s feedback alone can’t solve all of your business’ problems, the understanding that you can discover about their emotional drivers and buying behaviour is crucial.
Businesses that never check in with their audience and communicate in a 2-way direction are always going to struggle with keeping up with trends.
Take the time to conduct some primary research with people who would be your ideal (or even current) customer and use the above 8 tips. You will find that the information you uncover will be worth it.
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