Getting your business off the ground is perhaps the easiest part of owning a business. And as one of the owners of several small businesses, believe me, when I say, it’s no easy feat. Not only is it physically exhausting, more often than not, it leaves mentally and emotionally drained too. Imagine staying late every night for weeks just to make sure you get all your projections correctly. Then there’s the matter of endlessly negotiating with suppliers to get the best price for just about everything you need. You’ll also most certainly doubt if you’re doing the right thing.
But all of those challenges are nothing compared to when you’re trying to grow your business–especially during this trying time. It’s almost impossible.
That said, if there is one thing years of managing other people’s business and then finally putting up my own has taught me, it’s that the only way you can win (and continue winning) is if you understand your customers. Whether your business is B2B or B2C, it’s very crucial that you know exactly the how, why, when, and where your customers engage with your business.
This will not only help you tailor your offerings and improve your service to better address the needs and desires of current customers, but it will also help you know how to better position your business and brand so that it attracts new leads.
Think about it. How many times have you recommended an establishment to a friend because it fulfilled your exact needs and desires, or perhaps because it gave you the most amazing customer service? Understanding what is important to your customer opens up new doors for you. It turns your customers into loyal followers and then to ambassadors.
But how exactly do you begin to understand your customers? It all starts with data–a.k.a. information you can take and use to analyze patterns and behaviors to get a deeper understanding of the people you’re talking to. But with more and more controversies surrounding the use of data by companies, especially the larger corporations, exactly how do you begin to even get data from your customers without setting off their defense mechanisms and potentially losing them? What data do you even need?
Let’s talk about the basics
To answer the first question, one the first thing you need is to gain their trust. Remember that, in as much as you don’t want other people mishandling your data (see: identity theft and other forms of scams), the same is true for everyone. If need be, explain to them why you’re getting specific information from them and how you’re planning to store it.
Also, do not be pushy. If someone tells you that they don’t want to fill up your form or hand over any information save for their full name and birthdate, let it be. It’s not a loss. You were still able to get their age, which will contribute to you understanding to whom your business appeals to.
When it comes to which data you need, this one will differ from business to business.
Generally, it is ideal for all businesses to know their customers’ contact information (telephone number, email address, and physical address), preferred way of being contacted (Is it through email, SMS, or perhaps phone call? This one is very crucial because some modes of communication triggers anxiety), and reason for doing business with you. The last one is very important because it gives insight into their desires and needs and will help you both create opportunities for more business as well as create more accurate forecasts.
Now, depending on your business and your objective for obtaining data, other details you may want to acquire from your customers may include: What they like about you, what they don’t like about you, and areas for improvement of both your product and your customer service; what they think about your business and what emotions your products or service provides them, and; what they value in life, what their hobbies and interest are, and how they consume information.
You may think, “What does my customers’ interests and hobbies have to do with me?” Knowing what they value, what they like and how they consume information will help you create marketing communications campaigns and promos that are better tailored for them, thus helping not just encourage more business but create loyal customers as well.
What’s the next step?
Say you’ve already got enough data in your hands. What do you do with them? It’s time to organize and analyze them. This is a job that’s best left to experts. But if you don’t have enough resources at the moment to do that, one thing you can do is learn how to analyze data for sales and marketing use. There are a lot of online courses out there that tackle this specifically, and as an entrepreneur, it will really help if you have even just the most basic knowledge about this.
Keep in mind that as with all things in this world, data also has its expiration date. From my personal experience, we usually do data collection and analytics every two years. This helps us stay updated about our customers’ contact information as well as their emerging desires, needs, our areas for improvement and their perception of our brand. It also helps us know how their information consumption and purchasing behavior has changed.
Understanding your customers may be a tedious process but believe me when I tell you that it’s worth all the effort you put into it. Learn about it. Earn their trust enough for them to provide you their data. And reap the rewards of having a business that operates in such a way that it perfectly fulfills the needs and desires of its customers.