Have you noticed that when you buy something from an online bookshop you’ll soon receive their suggestions on what to buy next? There is a huge push in the consumer contact industry to collect metrics, preferences and tracking data to capture buying trends. Merging and cross-referencing data across various platforms helps companies build their individualised customer profiles. The purpose is to provide customers personalised marketing—but it can sure feel like you’re being spied on! “Knowing and understanding your customer is an integral part of running a profitable business,” says business mentor Rob Drage from Thexton Armstrong Drage in Faulconbridge. “But, on the other hand, it is possible to ‘know’ too much about your customer, to the point of second-guessing them, and neglecting to find out the truth.”
So, how can we learn about our customers’ wishes without invading their privacy?
“It does not take very much effort, through a conversation with your customer, to find out, for instance, what they do, how old they are, where they shop, what car they drive, whether they own a business and who their key customers are,” says Rob. “But the only driver in collecting this information must be to understand and serve your customer better. “
As small business owners, we do business with people we trust and respect and enjoy serving. They do business with us because we meet their needs, provide a value-based personal service and take the time to listen to them.
Often, you will learn all you need to know about your customers just by listening and asking questions. It’s never a good idea to make assumptions.
“The difficulty arises when we second guess the customer instead of having a conversation,” says Rob. “Knowing how your products and services meet their needs is the key to a continuing and profitable customer relationship.” As each customer is an individual, it’s important to treat them in a unique way—one that makes sense to them.
Your ideal customer
Having a view of your customer is important for the purpose of creating a picture of your ideal customer. Knowing what he or she looks like will help you market your services more effectively. This ‘dream’ customer has a few characteristics that set them apart from the rest.
“An ideal customer is satisfied with your product or service,” says Rob. “They feel that their needs are being met and they think of you first when they’re looking to re-purchase.”
And they don’t haggle. “They are happy with your price because it provides value to them. In fact, they are so pleased with you that they will tell others about you, and about your product or service,” Rob says.
Your relationship with your ideal customer is mutually satisfying and beneficial.
From a business owner’s perspective the ideal customer provides, first of all, good turnover and good profit—and they buy frequently.
On the other hand, an ideal customer doesn’t take too much of your time and leaves you free to pursue other customer relationships.
They also help you find new customers and keep your cash flow in check by providing referrals and paying on time.
Taking your relationship further
Now that we know what our ideal customer looks like, and how they can benefit our business, let’s see if we can make our dealings with them more individual.
By communicating with our customers—by just observing them—we may be able to learn what their communication preferences are. “Do they prefer to speak with us face to face? Or are they comfortable dealing with us by phone or email?” Asks Rob.
For the purpose of honing our services to better serve our customers, we should aim to find out how our customers use our services.
By familiarising ourselves with the way they benefit from our products or services we will be able to discover new ways to develop our offering.
Making sense of your brand
Understanding your customers should influence your interaction with them. It should also crystallise your own thinking as to what your business offers and whether your brand makes sense to your customers.
All human interaction, including business, is based on communication. That’s one reason to revisit the language that you use with your customers. Are you speaking their language—or are you just making noise? Does your customer understand you?
“Taking the questioning further,” says Rob, “you should ask yourself whether your value proposition, brand positioning and even your business name make sense to your customers.”
When you speak the language of your customers—and they understand what your business is about—you have the option of recruiting your customers to do your marketing for you.
An enthusiastic customer, well-versed in your business ideology, can become a walking, talking ambassador of your brand.
Value is not about price (alone)
A healthy business relationship with your customer should not, primarily, be about price.
Your job as a product or service provider is to find out what your customer values and then sell to that value.
“Getting to know your customers can reveal untapped or hidden value in complementary products and services,” says Rob. “It’s a tool to acquire competitive intelligence as well as to be abreast of market trends.”
Being knowledgeable about your customers therefore makes a lot of sense. When you know your customer and what motivates them, you will know your own business, and product or service offering, better.