How to Get to Know Your Customer

By the small business content developers at
Effective marketing is communication that depends on knowledge. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you might as well be talking to no one. It’s important that conversations between your business and your customer are goal-oriented and keep what your customer wants in mind.

Ideally, you’ve already identified your target audience by creating buyer personas when writing your business plan. If you haven’t yet done this, it’s time to do it now. While market research can be quite costly to acquire, it is possible to do a substantial amount of the work on your own -- it just takes time and effort. Here are ways to improve your marketing skills and get to know your audience.

1. Run an informal focus group.
It might sound intimidating, but you can even use video chat to connect with people that fit your ideal customer profile and talk to them about their impressions of your products. You can use Craigslist or your social media profiles to reach out to potential candidates. Remember to incentivize participation by offering goods, services, or cold hard cash to participants.

2. Create a survey.
You can target previous customers, your competition’s customers, or even your identified target audience and ask participants to complete a detailed survey in exchange for a gift certificate, discount, or other incentive. Make sure your questions are clear and centered around one focal point in your business, such as product design or marketing channels.

3. Sponsor an event.
You can use a physical or virtual event to interact with people who fit your customer persona. Small businesses located close to one another can partner together to create an experience for customers, like extended shopping hours, “treasure hunts,” expos, or seminars. If your customers are not geographically concentrated, you can use call-in shows, an advice column with questions from customers, or social media “chats” to interact with your target audience.

4. Monitor relevant keywords.
Are you keeping up with important trends surrounding keywords and SEO in your industry? If you’re not, you could be missing out on important changes that will affect how you connect with customers. Knowing what keywords your audience is searching for to find your website is instrumental in attracting web traffic, but those keywords may change over time, so stay on top of them.

5. Ask for reviews or recommendations.
There’s a reason for the huge growth in websites like Yelp and Angie’s List and the growing importance of reviews on commercial sites like Amazon and eBay. Buyers love reading reviews and doing research on services and products before they invest their cash. Reviews and recommendations help business owners learn what’s working and what needs improvement. Pay attention to your reviews. They provide valuable information that’s straight from user experience, and heeding what people say about your brand can help you make improvements that attract more customers.

6. Have a suggestion box.
It might seem outmoded to have a suggestion box, but many customers might prefer the cloak of anonymity to tell your company something critical or uncomfortable. If your sales clerk is rude to a shopper, this clearly affects a customer’s experience with your brand. One time might be an oversight, but multiple complaints might indicate a problem that’s ultimately hurting your bottom line. Even a virtual comment box can provide important insight into how things are going on a day-to-day basis.

It takes time to engage with customers, initiate dialogue, and earn their trust, but you have a lot to gain from nurturing those connections. You can quickly learn what makes customers depend on you and what drives them away once you open the lines of communication.

By Andrew Patricio

September 21, 2016