Uncovering things you might not know about your business.
Market research, and more importantly, customer insights are extremely helpful in understanding what your business does well and not so well, comparatively in the market. Whether you’re a café owner looking for other avenues for income or a construction company looking to find out why customers are choosing the bloke across the road, getting to know your customers and their motivations can be an integral part of uncovering why your customers like what they like, or do what they do. At the end of the day, the customers are what define a business!
Let’s take a step back and think about it for a second. Customers are just like you and me, a fellow homo sapien. Now, you and I like certain things, do things a certain way, crave particular food items now and then and so on. Now picture your typical customer (profile) and imagine what it would be like to buy from your own business, for example:
- Was it done quickly?
- Did I spend too much money for what I was getting?
- Was the quality of the product/service any good?
- Was the service up to scratch?
- Did I offer enough (or too much) choice?
These are some of things that customers (also both you and I) objectively and subjectively use to judge whether or not we buy again from a business.
But wait, that’s too hard.
Honestly, it really can be daunting for a small business owner and it’s why we have devised a little cheat sheet on how you can get started without the hassle of not knowing what to do in the first place!
We firmly believe that you don’t need complicated statistical software and algorithms to get started, on, what is traditionally, a very academic field of work, market research. Just sit down and use this example guideline to start on your journey of self-discovery.
Matching expectations with reality.
When starting for the first time, we encourage businesses to brainstorm what are the key criteria that your business’ life depends on. These are the things, when done collectively poorly, ruin a business and likewise, when done collectively well, flourish. All businesses usually sit within this spectrum.
Here, we limit it to five criteria, so that there isn’t an overwhelming list our brains can’t handle. It also keeps our minds focused on what matters the most.
For example, the five criteria we can look at are:
- On-time delivery
- Value for money
- Quality of products and/or services
- Customer service
- Range of products and/or services
While it’s not an exhaustive list, depending on the business, some criteria may be different. Say you’re a hairdresser and “on-time delivery” doesn’t apply, something else may be more relevant.
Try and choose criteria that encompasses the entire business as a single unit to start, then you can branch off into examining other arms of the business once you’ve wrapped your head around the bigger picture.
Part 1 | Mapping customers’ expectations
Once you’re done thinking about what areas of the business are important to its survival, now is the time to ask your existing customers to rank them 1-5 by importance to them when dealing with you, where 5 is most important and 1 is least important.
Here, we’re looking to find out what your customers expect of you and determining what matters the most to them. For example, maybe a customer values your quality products (gave a score 5) but price isn’t what matters when buying from you (gave a score 2). There are countless insights you can gain from simply asking customers to rank the importance they place on certain aspects of your business.
Part 2 | A reality check
Using the same criteria you’ve decided on, ask follow-up questions on how you ACTUALLY perform in each of those areas. Customers will rate your performance on a scale 1-5, where 1 is poor, 3 is average and 5 is excellent.
This will give you a more definitive health check on your business and find out where customers are and aren’t satisfied with your business.
Use what you’re good at (competitive advantage) to boost your existing sales and marketing efforts. If your customers use more than one supplier for the same product/service, chances are they are thinking about how you weigh up against the competition!
Part 3 | Recommendations anyone, please?
As the icing on the cake, one could say, is the Net Promoter Score® (NPS®). This is a simple yet effective metric you can use to see if customers will refer any business to the friends and colleagues (more business, YES!). There is formula on how to do it (you can Google it for those wondering) but we won’t get into that here (that’s for another post).
Putting all the pieces together
Now you can really see how you’re doing with your customers. Work out how each of your criteria stacked up against the other criteria and map that against how you’re really doing with customers in reality. This should help identify areas of improvement at a glance as well as understanding how your customers’ expectations (Part 1: what’s important to them) are met with their current dealings with you (Part 2: your performance, Part 3: NPS®).
Use this tool as an early warning system to flag down any potential problem areas before there’s irreparable damage: your customers go elsewhere!
So, what now?
“So, what now?” I hear you think. We’ve got you covered.
Here are a few extra tips and tricks to make this process much more valuable to you:
- Use the above criteria to get you started, chop and change if you feel it doesn’t apply to your business
- You don’t need a large sample size, 10-15 is usually enough to get an idea of how you’re tracking
- Preferably, talk to customers you have recently done business with, the more recent the better
- Keep the survey to the three questions and aim for no more than two minutes of someone’s time
- If you find, as the owner, you don’t have the time to do so, have someone else who is close to the client and is familiar with your business to do it
- After each round of surveys, brainstorm ideas together with your team and try and set recommendations for yourself
- Make the necessary changes in your business
- Rinse and repeat, preferably on a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly, etc. basis
Be objective, be gracious.
Let’s be real here, don’t let the ego get in the way. It’s what stops us from growing and understanding ourselves personally and professionally. Customers don’t like certain aspects of your business? Embrace it. Change it. Reach out with open arms and customers are more than likely to give you constructive feedback to improve on.
When you sit down with your customers, just have a whole hearted and HONEST conversation about the current state of affairs. You are empowering them to help you provide a better product or service.
Stay objectively connected with the business and start a process of continuous improvement. It’s a long-term investment (emotionally and financially) that pays off in the end. Happy customers, happy business (isn’t that how the saying goes?).
PS. Now that you’ve made it this far, we’ve actually got the checklist for you here. Go get started and start making your customers’ voices heard!