It’s easy to lose sight of the real purpose of your business: to provide service and solutions to your customers.
Before you had customers, there was just you and an idea. Chances are you didn’t do any fancy market research to bring your ideas to life. You might have even had such a great idea, that it was intuitively obvious to your customers why they should buy it.
But one thing we’ve all learned is that if you want to be in business over the long haul, you have to recognize that your customers are growing older, and in the same way that there’s a generation gap in the music or clothes that we like, each new generation of customers brings their own set of needs and problems for your product or service to solve.
How to turn your customer list into a valuable asset
We like to say that employees are assets, but your customers are assets too—and there are some companies who leave these assets to die on the vine. But you can actually put them developing killer new products and services that will not only be attractive to existing customers, but will also attract new ones as well.
1. Take inventory
Pull out that Excel spreadsheet and create a master list of customers. You don’t have to be too picky, just get all of the marketing, sales, R&D and accounting lists together. If you also have a prospect list, include that as well, just make sure they are labeled as prospects.
2. Categorize the list
Next, you’ll want to start grouping your lists. That means you’ll have to add some additional information to each customer record. In addition to the basic contact and location information, be sure to include the products and services they’ve purchased, then add an industry or application if you know what it is.
3. Run a profiling survey to get the rest
A profiling survey is nothing more than letting your customers tell you about themselves. If you didn’t know how or why your customers used your product or service, then this is how you get that information. A profiling survey is the infrastructure upon which each successive survey you run will sit. You can ask all the standard demographic questions and start asking some psychographic questions such as what their attitudes are about your industry, products or services.
4. Create a customer panel
If you’ve done steps 1-3, then you’re already on your way to creating what’s called a “panel.” A customer research panel is a profiled list of customers who volunteer to answer your survey questions—think of them as an online customer advisory board. Every time they answer survey questions, these answers are added to their record and you have a more complete picture of your customers’ decisions and preferences.
5. Build a living database
An active and responsive customer research panel creates a living database. To build and use a living database, you’ll have to get familiar with a couple survey methods that will not only engage your customers, but will also make developing new products and services—as well as managing your existing products and services—very easy, and possibly even fun.
Advanced survey methods that turn customer preferences into profitable products
Collecting customer research data has gone through a complete transformation in the last decade—online surveys are just the beginning. DIY Marketing research providers have turned complex statistical software into a fairly consumer friendly tool. Of course, you will have to do some reading to understand each method. But if you follow the instructions and get some expert help in putting the survey together, you will have access to multi-million dollar business building information.
Crowdsourcing uses the wisdom of the crowds to help you determine where to put your focus in your product development efforts. Applications are mostly free and widely available; the two I’m most familiar with are IdeaScale and Get Satisfaction. This is a great entry way to building a customer community that literally tells you what they want you to do and create.
This is a market research method that forces consumers to make tradeoffs between one or more features and benefits of a product on a scale from most preferred to least preferred. You can use conjoint analysis to create new product and service offerings or to find areas where you can cut unnecessary costs or features from your current offerings. Either way, you’ll never have to guess what your customers want and value—they will tell you what they want and what they value.
Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency started its life predicting advertising reach, but it’s so much more than that. It is used to determine what drivers motivate consumers to purchase a certain product. This can help you determine which products and/or services to offer, and which not to offer. For example, if you wanted to market a new ice cream, you may consider launching 10 possible flavors, but in reality, only three might be purchased in large quantities. The TURF algorithm identifies the optimal product line.
Market research tools and methods increase customer engagement and build loyalty
Bet you never thought of market research as a customer engagement or loyalty building tool, but it’s one of those DIY Marketing strategies that turns your unused customer list into a brand-building asset. Then it gets those customers involved in designing their own product and service experience, and finally, it frees you up from the expensive and error-prone guess work of trying to figure out what your customers really want.