I’ve got a question for you. Do you know your customer? I mean really know your customer? It’s actually a pretty rare accomplishment for businesses to truly understand who their customers are and how they operate, so I’m betting your answer is no.
All too often, companies are focused on sales and products and don’t spend enough time seeing things through the eyes of the people who really run the company: their customers.
Drawing a Picture
Try this exercise with me. On a piece of paper, draw a person. It can be a stick figure if art isn’t your thing. Now, with your ideal customer in mind, begin to fill in details. Is this person male or female? Old or young? Write in details on the side of your drawing about income, education, where this person lives, what this person likes to do.
You may not know the answers to many of these questions. That’s the point of the exercise: to see what you don’t know about your customer. Now it’s time to fill in the holes.
Getting to Know Your Customer
It may seem daunting, getting to know your customer. Sounds expensive and time consuming, doesn’t it? It’s actually not. All it requires is a good ear.
Start by paying attention to where your customer hangs out. If it’s on Twitter, assign someone in your company’s marketing department to pay attention to what your demographic is tweeting about. You might find out that while you assumed your customer wanted a cheaper paper towel like the one you sell, what she really wants is a recycled and eco-friendly product.
If your customers are business owners that aren’t really online, attend local networking events and ask questions. And listen. You can learn a surprising amount simply by asking questions.
I recently found out that members of Dell’s sales team are actually calling customers to follow up on orders and customer service issues. They’re talking to the customer, and finding out it’s not such a scary thing after all.
Create surveys and ask customers and contacts to take them (it’s a good idea to offer an incentive for doing so). Find out more about your customer, what they want in a product and how they like to receive marketing messages. You might find you’ve been barking up the wrong marketing tree, and this invaluable advice can keep you from wasting more money and effort on the wrong tool.
SurveyMonkey and Google Forms provide free survey tools that you can use to gather data from customers. If you use surveys, make sure you actually take action on the results you get; a survey for surveying’s sake is useless unless you do something with that data.
Beyond getting a wide survey of your target demographic, another great way to get into the minds of your customers is by identifying those that act as brand evangelists. Brand evangelists are those customers who sing your praise and refer others to your brand. These are great allies, as they may be willing to open up to you and share insights you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Dell does a great job of working with brand evangelists through its #DellCAP program. This Consumer Advisory Panel is one that Dell turns to to understand more about how its customer service is perceived, and to determine what its customers want. (In full disclosure, I am a part of this panel, and have enjoyed knowing that Dell hears my concerns and ideas about its brand and has made moves toward making them a reality).
You’ll find that by knowing your customer better, you are able to deliver better results through products, marketing and innovation your customers actually want.