Knowing Your Customers Gives You the Edge!

When it comes to marketing, what or who is the most important element of your business? Your customers! Therefore it’s only logical that you should know a lot about them and their opinions and values.

So what are some of the benefits and end results of placing emphasis on customer knowledge? First, you’ll be able to update your customer database. And if you currently have names on pieces of paper, this process could be the reason for creating a database. Within the database, you can create a specific column to designate if the customer if a key customer; i.e. one of those twenty percent who produce eighty percent of your revenue. Or a column for special notes such as where they went to college, where they’ve lived, what are their hobbies, or how they found you. Take the time and make the effort so your database will work for you!

Second, perhaps you’ll learn about the best way to communicate with your customers. Some people only use email. Maybe they’ll tell you they don’t want to be phoned at their home, or would prefer a postcard reminder. Third, take knowledge about your existing customers and apply it to identifying prospects. This information should help you narrow down the key benefit or benefits of doing business with you, and that’s extremely useful for your promotional efforts.

Fourth, if your business is outstanding, you have an informal sales force to tap. Nothing is better than a recommendation or a ready to implement referral network. Fifth, if you’ve learned about your weakness, you can try to fix it. Some solutions might be employee training or revised hours. An idea shared by one or more of your customers may help you tailor a product or service and charge a higher price, or find a way to shorten your delivery time benefiting the customer and saving you money.

The last question is how can you obtain information from these important people? Some standard methods include phone interviews; written surveys distributed via mail, email, and fax; and in-person interviews. Or meeting those best customers periodically for lunch or better yet, if you’re in the business-to-business sector, introducing them to someone who will help them prosper.

Additionally, I’ll refer to my July 2006 newsletter that focused on ways to gather customer information and demonstrate you’re listening.

  • Establish advisory groups, customer councils or board of directors, especially involving your best customers
  • Conduct focus groups
  • Use after-purchase surveys
  • Ask employees for feedback based on discussions with customers
  • Use customer suggestion boxes
  • Undertake formal written surveys sent within a newsletter or promotional piece
  • If you distribute a newsletter, ask for customer comments
  • Seek follow-up to customer complaints after problems are solved
  • Hire mystery shoppers, especially retailers.

After you’ve decided the benefits from and how you might implement this process, a great place to start when developing questions are issues directly impacting the marketing mix elements. Here are some examples.

Product

  • What are the most prominent benefits your customers receive and/or experience from your product and/or service?
  • Who are the key employees with whom they interact?
  • Do you need to revise your warranty or return policy?

Place

  • Is your location convenient? Are your store hours adequate?
  • How can you improve the knowledge of your sales and service staff?
  • Is it easy to communicate with your business?

Price

  • Have your customers compared your prices to your competitors?
  • Do you need to revise your financing or payment options?
  • Do you have a niche that will allow you to raise your price?

Promotion

  • How did your customers originally hear about you?
  • Do they want to hear about sales promotions or receive service reminders?
  • Should you considering including some of your customers in your promotional materials?

As you can see, there are numerous questions to ask. The good news is these questions and the methods for gathering answers can be tailored to fit your situation.