How to know your Customer’s Wants and Needs

    December 27, 2004

To use marketing research effectively for your growing business, you should understand what motivates your customer.

Finding the essential ingredient in persuasion are

* Analyze your firm’s competitive advantage. What do you do best?

* Identify specific markets you now serve.

* Determine the wants and needs of your present customers.

* Determine what you are now doing to satisfy those wants and needs.

* Prepare a marketing plan that allows you to reach out to new customers or to sell more to your present customers.

* Test the results to see if your new strategies are yielding the desired results.

Market research must be used in each of these six steps to help define your business for your customer’s interests, not your own. It is the process of learning what customers want or need and determining how to satisfy those wants or needs. It is also used to confirm whether the customer reacted to a marketing program as expected. The benefits of market research include

* Learning who your customers are and what they want.

* Learning how to reach your customers and how frequently you should try to communicate with them.

* Learning which advertising appeals are most effective and which ones get no response.

* Learning the relative success of different marketing strategies, thus improving return on investment.

* Learning how not to repeat your mistakes.

The dilemma for the small business owner is that, properly done, market research is quite expensive, takes time and requires professional expertise. Acquiring all the necessary data to reduce the risk to your venture may cost so much and take so long that you may go out of business. The answer is to find a quick and inexpensive way of getting enough data to help you make the right decision most of the time. Some obvious pitfalls are

* Using a sample that does not represent the total market.

* Asking the wrong questions.

* Not listening to the responses.

* Building in biases or predispositions that distort the reliability of information.

* Letting arrogance or hostility cut off communication at some point in the marketing process.

If you have a limited budget, develop the skills to hear what your customers and potential customers are telling you. Some techniques worthy of consideration are

Advisory board

Occasionally convene a group of local people, whose opinions you respect, to act as a sounding board for new ideas. Choose your group with extreme care; one or two negative thinkers can distort the thought process of the entire group.

User group

Gather customers together to discuss new ideas. Their opinions can help you keep your business on track. Pick a neutral setting where the people will talk. Be sure to reward the participants and share the credit for good ideas.

Informal survey

If you seek feedback from customers by simply asking, How was everything? You can be seriously misled. Most people, even those with legitimate complaints, are reluctant to speak out because they are afraid of appearing foolish. This tendency is probably more widespread in smaller communities, where friendships often stand in the way of critical review. Also, if your attitude is such that customers feel complaining will not do any good, you may be antagonizing customers without even knowing it. One solution is to take a few customers aside and ask them some sincere questions about how your business met their expectations and where it fell short. If the customer appears uneasy, do not press the issue – you will only force him or her to give you pat answers to escape the situation. If you get a good response, take notes. Follow-up letters thanking the customers and telling them what you plan to do with their suggestions will bring you friends for life.

Perform Your Own Customer Survey

If you are a business owner, these questions are for you. Have you conducted your own private interview of customers? Have you personally talked to at least 50 to 60 customers to find out what they like or dislike about your business, products and service?

A personalized business survey is a simple thing to prepare and implement. If you do it regularly, you can find when and where things are breaking down in your service.

Use a piece of 8.5 x 11 inch paper with the following types of yes and no questions:

1. Is the service we provide meeting your highest expectations? If not, what areas can we improve? —– yes —– no

1. ————————————–

2. ————————————–

3. ————————————–

2. Are we providing the brands and lines you want and expect? If not, please list what is needed. —– yes —– no

1. —————————————

2. —————————————

3. —————————————

3. Is our business clean and pleasant to be in at all times? How can we improve it? —– yes —– no

1. —————————————

2. —————————————

3. —————————————

4. Do you feel the business is truly a part of the community?

—– yes —– no

Is it a friendly place? —– yes —–

no prices competitive? —– yes —–

no are getting good values? —– yes —– no

– 5. Is

– 6. Are the

– 7. Do you feel you

You may want to include more specific questions, but the key is to keep the survey short and to the point. Keep it personal by preparing and signing it yourself. Leave room for written comments.

Questionnaires should not be stacked at the cash register for casual distribution. Personally present them to customers along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

What can you learn from this? Plenty. What can customers learn? Well, it shows you care and that is always a sales plus.

You can also create a one for your Web Site if you have one. For best results, place a survey such as the one above on your thank you pages after your greeting.

Suggestion box

A suggestion box is a simple idea that works, but only if you do the following:

* Read the suggestions on a regular basis.

* Do something about the suggestions you receive.

* Reward those who give you good ideas by posting their names, writing letters to them or rewarding them with money or other things of value.

Steven Boaze, Chairman, is The Owner of
Corporate Web Solutions. Steven is the Author of
two successful Books, thousands of articles featured
in radio, magazines newspapers and trade journals.
Steven has 25 years experience in journalism, copywriting,
certified Web Developer.
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