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How to know your customers-What to Look For and How?

You got a cool idea, you build some tech around it. But you have no customers, or maybe very few. What to do!

Sunday July 16, 2017,

8 min Read

Most of the startups start off with the assumption that they don’t need marketing and sales. We don’t give enough importance to the art and science of understanding our market. In the early stages, in the interest of time and wise resource allocation, we ignore it. And then we wonder..why are people not buying my product.

I have an amazing website, an amazing product — what’s wrong?

Probably nothing. If you have validated the existence of a market, what you need to do now is understand it. That’s not as easy at all.

It’s a process based on research, analysis and intuition. It is about asking the right questions and overcoming our biases. The art of perception combined with the understanding of data — add to it dollops of patience and discipline for research. This process can be done in 3 stages —

1. Collect — All kinds of customer interaction, feedback, reviews, usage numbers, behavior and  language

2. Analyse — Make sense of it by categorizing your data into themes like features/product, process, brand perception, value to customer.

3. Fill in gaps — Now that you have a fair view of your data, find out the missing pieces based on business goals for short and medium term.

Now, it is entirely possible that you might not have very significant data, or clean data or helpful data. But that’s okay! You have to start somewhere.

With any luck, if you periodically complete the loop of collecting and analysing, you will be in a position to know whether your money is being spent on acquiring the right kind of prospects. This knowledge will help you correct and shape your marketing strategy, your business goals and your product roadmap.

Make sure you are spending your time on moving in the right direction.

Importance of knowing your customers

Who is your customer?

There is no denying that any good marketing strategy starts with the customers. Even in the digital age, keyword strategy depends on intent and intent is the hardest thing to figure out. What does the customer mean when they say something, what are they not telling us, how can I get insights about why did they choose us, who else they considered.

These are all difficult to get answers that even the most candid ones might not be able to communicate. This is not because they are trying to hide something. At times we don’t know how to ask them and they don’t know what we are looking for so they can’t answer. But these answers are important to nail down on questions like

|| Who am I solving this problem for?

|| What is the exact problem my product solves?

|| How exactly people are using the product to solve the problem?

Create buyer journey

You need to know the journey your customer follows — online and offline.

The journey differs for most of the products. for example — the way you buy a shoe is vastly different from how you buy insurance policy. The important things to consider and evaluate for buyer journey are

1. When does the need for my product arise?

You might have to start with the problem your product is solving. When does your customer break down saying “I’ve had enough!”.

What type of your customer breaks down easily.

Are people actively looking for a solution to this problem?

What are the current ways they are trying to solve their problem. If you have a never before heard of product, you might have to educate that a solution even exists.

2. What are the initial steps taken by the customer when they search for a solution?

Do they speak to their friends or coworkers about this problem?

Do they research online?

Understanding the problem will help you zone in on the keywords they use in this stage which you can target with helpful content. Hopefully, you will be able to convince of your knowledge and authority about how to solve their problem. This way, you make an inroad in their minds and leave your brand impression. They still might look around for online reviews or ask around about you.

3. What are the alternative solutions for their problem?

You must know this so that you can convince them that you are better. Also, it is a good way to develop your value proposition. Even if you do not have direct competitors, you need to know what it is that you can help them with. If you can find something which is important to them and which nobody else can do for them, there you have it.

They have just started considering you seriously.

4. How big is the problem for my customers?

What are they willing to pay?

How big is the problem you are solving?

What is the amount of time, resources and effort they put in solving this problem. This will also help you validate and experiment with your pricing.

Create better personas

1. What are the kind of people with the problem I am solving?

2. What are the kind of people most likely to have this problem?

3. What are their characteristics? How do they live, what problems they face, what language/phrases they use, what status or titles they use to describe themselves, the things they want to avoid or achieve.

It seems difficult to go into such depth, but it is important for the right people to have this knowledge. The right people include the decision makers, marketing, sales, user experience, support — in my opinion, the entire company must be on the same page about this.

It helps in creating better user experiences, empathetic customer interactions, genuinely helpful(and converting) content.

Other Advantages of knowing your customer include

1. Design an on-boarding that makes sense to your customer

2. Write and sell with better copy

3. Experiment better with pricing

4. Prioritize features based on real demand and customer feedback

and obviously— Become better at defining your market

Why qualitative data?

Real human interactions are supremely revealing(people will admit and reveal information they just wouldn’t on a survey).

Surprise moments (the ‘aha’ ones) are only possible with qualitative data— there is reluctance to share certain kind of data, moments which reveal what people hesitate with, topics which people open up to. We can perform all sort of analysis numbers and find valuable patterns.

Qualitative data is far more precious as it reveals reasons behind patterns.

How to do this?

Efforts should be made to continuously collect and analyze qualitative data.

This should be an ongoing effort especially from decision makers as it helps you take better decisions and keeps you in touch with who your product serves.

5 easy ways to collect qualitative customer data

Read support emails- You will be able to uncover usability issues, FAQ questions, types of inquiries about product or feature requests.

Attend support calls- See the frequency of interaction — are people coming back to support for similar queries, interaction preferences — when do they choose to reach to support, preparation for interaction — what data do they have with them, general moods, hours chosen for interaction.

Conduct Phone Interviews- Conduct phone interviews with prospects, existing customers, old customers. This will help you know reasons why people are hesitating to pay, what are their doubts about you or your product, what features they use and what words they use to describe their experiences.

Take Team Interviews- Your sales and support team will have valuable information about the actual customer issues and preferences. Make sure that you get this input from their perspectives and benefit from their insights.

Mine Testimonials/Reviews- Good and Bad — both of them have so much to offer. Leaving a review for a company is a humungous task and we all know it. Go through the review periodically to uncover the frustrations and the delight that your customers are at the receiving end of.

What should I look out for?

1. Language- (difference between saying fees/cost/price) Look out for customer language. What words and phrases they use, maybe they are using some slangs. Language also plays a role in defining your customer personas and is super important for your copy and content

2. Issues- about product, feature usability, product related inquiries. Developers need to be extremely aware of what is happening at the other end when they are done shipping the latest release.

3. Feedback- Questions like what are the issues highlighted? Is there any change in ratings depending on when it’s asked in the lifecycle? Is there any reluctance of feedback? What is the preferred medium of sharing feedback?

Qualitative research is a discipline which can reap amazing advantages, especially when you are in the stage of defining your market.

Even if you are no marketing wizard, use the mentioned steps to develop a sense of who you are putting in all your energy for!

Happy researching!

Article originally published on Medium - Link