As small business owners, we like to think we know our customers pretty well. After all, we spend much of our day either speaking to them in person, over the phone or via social media.
But how well do we really know our customers?
Why knowing your customers is so important
As business owners we all like to think we know our customers like the back of our hands, but deep down we all know that’s not necessarily true.
The fact is there’s always more to learn about your customers, for good reason. Understanding more about your customers is key to helping your business to become more customer-centric, and for your customers to become more engaged.
It’s all too easy to rely on assumptions, conjectures and market research, none of which typically involve actually speaking with customers.
Truly knowing your customers can also help you to grow your business in 2 main ways:
- Firstly it will help you to build stronger relationships with your existing customers.
- Secondly it can bring you new customers by tapping into the network effect of generating referrals in the form of friends, family and work colleagues.
First, a small test
Pick a random customer, really any one of them, and try answering these questions honestly. How much of the following do you know:
- What’s their favourite of your products or services?
- What additional products or services are they most likely to be interested in?
- How regularly they shop with you?
- Where else they shop, when they’re not shopping at yours?
- How they heard about your business in the first place?
- What (if anything) they are saying about your business to their friends, family and colleagues?
- Are they recommending your business?
- Which social media they use?
- When their birthday is?
Where did it all go wrong?
We all start off on the right foot. The first handful of customers come through your door, each and every one a potential regular.
You’re not overly stretched (beyond getting systems and processes in place), there’s hopefully 1 or 2 staff (or an understanding husband, wife, girlfriend, best mate) to help you out and you’re in-store every day.
Each day those customer faces become more and more familiar. Familiarity increases, you recognise regulars’ faces, some you may even know their names.
Eventually there’s a handful of people whose names you know. You’ll wave on the street, and some will pop in to say hello even when they’re not shopping.
At some point you get to take the occasional day off. Those occasional days off eventually (and reasonably!) turn into reducing your days so you can spend time with family and friends. Maybe even a holiday (gasp!).
Next time you’re back in, you begin to notice lots of new faces. Who are these customers? Where did they come from? Is this their first time or have they been coming here for a while now?
And there’s so many channels! There’s an increasingly fragmented sea of touch points now separating consumers and brands. So many channels means it’s an ongoing struggle for marketers to meet their audiences with the right message at the right moment in the customer journey.
So how can you get to know your customers better?
- Start by talking to them - in person, over the phone or online - to find out more about them, their wants and needs.
- Be open with your customers - use email and social media to share your story, and tell them what’s going on behind the scenes. Why would your customers share with you if you’re not willing to do the same?
- Listen to social media. Facebook and Twitter aren’t just for talking about your business, your products and services. Social media is also really good for finding out what others are saying.
- Encourage feedback from them however they prefer - in person, over the phone, via an online feedback form, even a comments book in-store. Give them the opportunity to feed back especially negatively (it’s not always positive!)
- Remember their purchasing habits - how often they buy and, if possible, what they buy. There’s no need to be overly ‘big brother’ but it can help to ensure you have what they want when your customers want it.
- Reward your customers - through exclusive loyalty perks, promotions and incentives - in return for them sharing their personal information and preferences with you
- Personalise your customers’ experience. People are more attentive and interested when they hear their name, so try to remember those of your customer
- Give your customers the occasional pleasant surprise. The most lasting (and talked about) customer experiences often come from a pleasant surprise - particularly when it’s unexpected.
- Make it super easy for your customers to refer their friends, family and colleagues into your business - and reward them for doing so!