Is your customer base changing? 4 Key Ways to Find Out

There’s a saying in sports that repeating as a champion is harder than becoming one the first time around.  Much the same can be said for succeeding in business:  it’s sometimes not as hard to get successful as it is to stay successful.

Although many factors impact the long-term success of almost any enterprise (e.g., marketing, technological advances, product development), market research tells us that there is one that always applies:  customer satisfaction.  If you aren’t able to attract consumers, convert them into customers and, perhaps most importantly, keep them coming back, nothing else you do will really keep you in business.

So, should your primary focus be on customer satisfaction? We think so, but with a caveat:  you have to know who your customer really is, not who you believe your customer to be.  For example, the slickest, coolest, most prestigious marketing campaign imaginable is of little use if it’s targeted at a demographic that isn’t interested in the product(s)/service(s) you provide.

“Great”, you say, “but we don’t have the resources to engage in a major market research initiative to find out what our customer base is or whether it’s changing.”  Smaller businesses have reason to be concerned with cost when considering such an undertaking.  However, even resource-strapped businesses can find out what their customers want.

Here are 4 simple things for you to consider to help you determine whether you’ve correctly identified your customer base and/or if your actual market has shifted away from your “target market”:

  1. Who Are You?  Now, today, not historically.  Much as the marketplace evolves, so do individual companies.  Is your brand what it once was?  Look at your website and promotional materials to assess whether they’re relevant to what you’re about now.  If not, your online presence really isn’t getting your message out to your target audience. Relevance is critical in attracting visitors and generating consumer engagement.
  2. Who Are Your Customers?  Are they who you thought they were?  More importantly, how do you know?  If your answer starts with “We believe that …”, then you’ve got a problem.  Knowledge is power- knowledge of who your customer base is, rather than what you believe it to be, is your most powerful tool for achieving success.  And market research is how you fashion that tool.  Some affordable and effective market research methods include:
    • Looking at your sales, obviously.  Who is buying what you’re selling?  If you don’t know, find out.  Get granular with your sales figures.
    • Asking your customers.  Use a survey.  Yankee Candle, for example, conducted a survey on Facebook which proved to be incredibly effective.
    • Sending an email questionnaire.
    • Going old school.  Get on the phone and call your customers.  Not only will you get answers, you’ll demonstrate to them how important they are.
    • Using analytical tools (e.g., Google Analytics).
  3. What Does Your Widget Do?  Your product or service may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if you can’t effectively describe what problem it solves, you can’t determine who has the problem.  A solution without a problem is simply an idea, nothing more. Identify the demographics of those whose problem you can solve by:
    • Age/Gender
    • Relationship Status/Family Status
    • Income Levels/Education
    • Interests/Attitudes/Activities
    • Ethnicity/Religious Affiliations
    • Associations/Organizations
    • The more information you can come up with, the more accurate your customer profiles or personas will be.
  4. Rinse and Repeat.  If, after your analysis, you’re comfortable that you’ve not only correctly identified your customer base but that it hasn’t changed or likely won’t, remember this simple word:  Yet.  Time marches on and so do market demands and consumer tastes.  Regularly scheduled market research of your customer base can only contribute to your lasting success.

For best results, let me repeat: Ask your customer.

If you’d like information about how our Customer Research services can help you do so, let me know.

About Susan O’Neil, CEO – @Website Publicity
Founder & CEO, and co-author of Maximize Website Traffic, Susan speaks and writes frequently about Search, Social & Mobile Marketing.
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