Build Your Business by Building Your Knowledge of Customers
There’s an old expression in Spain: “To be a bullfighter, you must first learn to be a bull.”
In other words, if you know the bull so well he becomes predictable...you've won.
Now let's amend the above statement to make it applicable to business:
“To be a successful company, you must first learn to be a customer.”
That is, your goal should be to know customers so well that you can consistently and accurately anticipate their attitudes and behaviors. You might say this is the key to business success.
Above all, know your customers.
Consider just 8 practical ways to build your business by building your knowledge of customers:
1. Surveys: The quickest way to your customers’ thoughts
Surveys are an effective, time-honored way of quickly learning about customers by asking them direct questions. With the advent of the Internet and new survey-administering technologies (e.g., mobile phones), customer surveys are as relevant as ever. A survey is a fast, affordable way to structured (i.e., quantitative) and unstructured (i.e., free form) consumer insights.
2. Concept Testing: Sell your product to customers before selling it to them
A product launch is a risky and expensive undertaking. Research shows that a shocking 95% of new products fail.
If you have an idea for a new product, concept testing enables you to describe, show, and even demonstrate the idea to customers, all the while collecting their likes and dislikes about it. You leave as little to chance as possible, by seeking customer input before making heavy and irreversible investments in product development and marketing.
3. Shop-alongs: Go shopping with your customers
What if you could actually go to the store with customers, and both watch and listen as they contemplate buying your products and those of rivals? Shop-alongs let you do just that.
For years researchers have used shop-alongs to collect consumer attitudes and behaviors at the most critical moment: while shoppers are actually in stores. Efficient and affordable technologies have breathed new life into traditional shop-along methods, making this approach to learning about customers more practical than ever.
4. Mystery Shopping: See your business from the customer’s point-of-view
Especially popular among restaurants and other service industries, traditional mystery shopping entails sending researchers, posing as customers, to one’s own business, where these "mystery shoppers" make purchases, interact with employees, and experience the operation from the customer’s perspective. However, with advancements in technology, companies are increasingly using their own customers as mystery shoppers.
5. IHUTs: Visit your customers’ homes to observe how they use your products
An In-Home Use Test (IHUT) is a tool for companies that need to understand how customers actually use their products...and what thoughts they entertain as they're using them. With IHUTs, customers use your products in their most natural habitat, their homes, as you observe their interactions with your products. Here, too, technology is changing the game, making it easier than ever to be in living rooms, kitchens, and backyards with customers.
Related: 5 Benefits from IHUTS
6. Ethnographies/Diaries: Monitor day-by-day your customers’ involvement with your product
A common mistake: thinking of consumption as a single point in time—for instance, eating a candy bar. Many critical consumption events occur before (e.g., daydreaming, planning) and after (e.g., emotional reactions, repeat purchases) eating a candy bar. Ethnographies employ diaries to track minute-by-minute consumption events over time—whether days, weeks, months, or years. Through these diaries companies come to better understand the before, during, and after of product purchases, entirely from a customer’s perspective.
7. Communities: Dig deeper into your customers’ thoughts
Communities enable companies to delve deep into the thoughts and attitudes of customers. This tool enlists a limited number of participants (i.e., customers) to discuss questions about a specific product or brand. Like ethnographies, communities may transpire over time. As one answer synergistically builds on top of another, the company acquires valuable customer insights.
8. Combine these Methods
In many cases, however, the most powerful tool for learning about your customers may be a combination of tools. For example, a company might combine a video shopalong (i.e., the customer films herself shopping for a particular product) with a structured survey.
Utilize Mobile Market Research and Audits for Your Business
Download the eBook: "Mobile Research: How Smartphones Connect Companies with Their Customers"
Mobile research is a fast, affordable, and far-reaching way to build your customer knowledge. Powered by crowdsourcing, mobile research is a versatile means for conducting surveys, concept tests, shopalongs, mystery shops, and other research projects. Download the eBook below to learn more about the unique capabilities of mobile research.