Supposing you’re a business who’s revenue is reliant on a proportion of customers to buy from you again and again. What makes you think that your customers aren’t getting bored with you?
Pretty much every business has had the experience with a customer who they thought was happy ended up going somewhere else. Internally the reason is often rationalized by price (“the competition offered them a crazy-low price”), function (“if only we had XYZ feature we would’ve kept the business”) or knowledge (“the new decision maker doesn’t understand our real value”).
Are your customers still ‘in love’ with your solution to their problem? Are they still chomping at the bit to find out all the ins and outs of the new versions of your products or services when you launch them? How loyal are they to you? How sure are you that they’re not only with you because they can’t find something else? How do you know that they’re not actively looking for that alternative right now?
If you’re like most companies you don’t really know the answer. Oh sure, you’d like to think you do, but at best you can only answer the above questions based upon speaking with one or two individual customers (who may not even be decision makers).
That’s a problem. A big problem.
Market Research Is Only Half Of It
A few businesses might think that they’re addressing this by the occasional market research activity. That may be something as formal as commissioning a market research company. Alternatively, it could simply be feedback from sales teams, product management and / or customer services. All of this is great. But it’s superficial, cursory and incomplete.
Why? Because bad news travels faster than good news. It’s a bit like finding out how many people don’t like you.
Yes, knowing such things are important. But it’s also important to know how many people like you, why they like you, and what you need to do to keep them liking you.
I’ve seen it a million times. A business spends a dumper-load of time, energy and resources to develop some idea or another, only to see it fall flat on its face. But what’s even more crazy is that – for not a lot of investment – the situation may have been saved by the business having a better understanding of what makes their customers love them.
For years, all but the largest businesses were pretty much waving a wet finger in the air when it came to market research. The reason – more often than not – was that market research was time-consuming, complex and (above all) expensive.
But that’s no longer the case. Today, any business has a realtime barometer that gives them detailed information on customer opinion, sentiment, loyalty and – yes – love.
It’s Customer Research, Jim, But Not As We Know It
Social media channels, and the associated monitoring tools can be a company’s ear to the ground. You can create a survey using any of the numerous online services, using Google Docs, or even from Facebook. You can run your own webinars or Hangouts. Or you can send out a questionnaire by email. No matter what customer information you’re trying to find, there’s probably a fast, easy-to-use (and cost-effective) way of getting it. None of us have an excuse any longer.
But finding a tape measure is the easy part. The hard part is knowing what to measure. Here are some thoughts:
- Remember Why You’re Asking. There’s no point asking a question if the answer doesn’t help you to make a decision. We’re not here to make ourselves look big, and make pretty graphs to slam into PowerPoint presentations that we parade at board meetings to get stakeholders off our backs.
- Don’t Go For Ego Numbers. Most people’s gut reaction is to look into traditional metrics such as brand awareness. Yeah, great. Surely what’s more useful is to find out what are the obstacles to purchase, in your customers’ minds. Knowing their problems and frustrations provides an opportunity to differentiate, add value and increase customer fidelity.
- Ask The Hard Questions. What don’t your customers like about your products/services, the buying experience, and customer service? How do those answers stack up against those of your competitors?
If you don’t understand your customers, then you don’t understand how your business integrates with your customers – it’s that simple. It’s a hop, skip and jump from being the answer to all of their prayers to them getting bored of you or (even worse) feeling that you’re becoming less relevant.
Speak with your customers, and speak with them often. Learn about their hopes, their goals – and their fears. Because if you’re not doing it, you can bet that your competitors are.