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Ask any entrepreneur for the advice they would give aspiring startup founders, and the answer is not often the obvious one. Yes, “more money” is always great, but with experience and hindsight, the one thing they’d wish they’d done differently is usually research- and more of it.
More often than not, it’s not more cash that you need to ensure the success of your business, but more insights into understanding your customer base and their needs. If you’ve identified the problem that needs solving, and your business and vision are the ones to do that, then you’ll have a grasp on your target consumer or client base. But for sustainability, it’s these consumer insights that will set you up for true success. In such a busy market, with consumer expectations changing almost weekly (or so it feels), existing organizations are also reevaluating how they communicate with their customer base and how they serve- because without this insight, and a laser focus on your target sell, what kind of business do you have?
When you invest in customer or client relationships that easily demonstrate your understanding of their current pain points, you will build affinity with your brand. It’s about doing everything you can to enable that brand loyalty. because relationship-driven products or services have a lot more power. If it’s time to refocus for you, or time to start, here are five ways to find those insights, and keep those customers:
1. Start from the top This might sound obvious- but are you sure there is a true market for your service or products? We are definitely in a relationship economy, and what your research and instinct told you even two years ago about what your customer wants is most likely not the same today. It’s easy to blindside yourself by “building and growing,” but it’s a time for radical self-honesty when it comes to who you serve. Do they want what you have now? What has changed for them, and how are you meeting them where they are now? It’s not an admission of failure to accept that it’s different; it’s a sign of building a business that does ensure you are solving real problems that serve people better- and these admissions are a critical step in building better.
2. Listen to your customers Being mindful of how your clients are growing and changing is vital for future-proofing your business. Competitor research makes sense, but the people you need to serve are your own clients, and ideally those already with an existing relationship. It’s not so much about talking to these people, but crucially, to listen. Asking them about what they need and where the potential gaps are will help you identify where you can serve better. True connections are not built on impulsivity, but they are considered and based on where you can add your own expertise and experiential authority. Your product roadmap depends on understanding your customers as much as you can now to ensure relevance and engagement.
3. Listen to the market This is potentially a surefire way to drive yourself crazy, but staying curious about the wider market and consumer mood via “social listening” will give you a great insight into current trends and needs. And when I say “current”, I mean, this week, not six months ago, because this is exactly how fast tastes change or are adopted. This will inform how you “talk” to your customers, or attract potential new ones. Your core messaging and tone are important facets of this. There is no bigger turn-off to perception and loyalty than those companies who simply don’t seem to “get it.” If you know your target demographic, you need to know what else is going on in their lives, and the wider world.
4. Offer “value,” not a product Startup founders get very caught up in tackling “problems” that they think people need to solve, versus making something people want. Again, this sounds obvious, but we see it happen constantly. Strip back and look at the value you provide versus the nuts and bolts of building it. If this means a clean sheet, then so be it. The adage of launching fast and often is valid, but you cannot neglect the need for validation and conducting true customer research to fully understand, and then communicate the value offer that meets people exactly where they are now.
5. Find insights to turn into action You understand the benefit and importance of listening, and why your map needs to include consumer insights- but in practicality, where do you find them? The answer is that you must utilize the tools that you have available- and this can look like:
- Your own customer data (website tracking and purchase history)
- Google Analytics you have available to you
- Surveys (going straight to the source- make it personal, and make it direct)
- Third-party review websites
- In-person networking and research (including trade shows and conferences as an attendee or direct participant)
Crucially and finally, you must commit to acting on feedback and insights that you receive. Gaining consumer insights is one thing, what you do with this information is another. Essentially, we have to go back to the truth on what you are setting out to build or achieve– the 2023 consumer does not allow for a lack of transparency or loyalty when it comes to purchasing decisions. In addition, your customer service journey is key, and it is not limited to simple aftercare. Retaining the customers you have will always be cheaper than acquiring new ones, and they will keep coming back.