Your business spends money, time and energy marketing your goods and services to current and potential customers. How well are you succeeding? Are your resources returning the best result?

Ask Your Customers

Seriously, ask them. Survey them, question them, find out what you need to know about your market.

Who is your target market?  What group produces the largest percentage of your sales?  Start with this crucial core of people plus others like them, to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are, how they perceive you versus your competitors.  Now design a survey, questionnaire or other device to elicit their opinions.

Designing the Survey

Start from the desired end result: What do you need to know? Key issues usually center around:

  • Customer awareness of your business
  • The frequency with which they buy from you
  • Whether they buy from your competitors and why
  • The level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your business
  • What may affect buying habits in the future.

The results are meant to provide you with a method to keeping your current customers happy by prioritizing those areas where you need to improve.

Surveys are best designed by professionals to ensure results are not tainted by poorly worded questions.  One more word: keep it brief. When a surveyor tells me it will “only take 15 minutes” of my time I generally opt out.

Getting Survey Out

This is the trickier part since the person taking the survey should not know it comes from your business or the outcomes will be affected.  The people who accost you in malls and on street corners and the telephone surveys are both efforts to ensure the respondent  is not aware of the company asking the questions.

Use the results to map out where you are currently, where you want to be, and what needs to be done to get there. Taking a systematic approach to understanding your competitive position will enable you to base your marketing plans on fact rather than gut feel or anecdote.

It is quite possible that while some of the results confirm what you already suspected to be the case, others may run counter to internal beliefs regarding your brand’s position and/or your customers’ priorities. If the research has been done properly, then the findings will reflect the reality of what the market is thinking, and should be accepted as such. It can be helpful to get buy-in from key internal stakeholders (who will be responsible for acting on the results afterwards) from the start, to ensure that they are in a position to take ownership of the outcomes.

Consider sharing edited highlights with existing and potential customers as part of your ongoing marketing activity. The fact that you have invested in finding out what the market thinks and needs, and to take business decisions on the back of this, will carry its own PR value.

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