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The Value of Customer Research

Incorporating Customer Insights: From Defining Target Audiences to Crafting Effective Questions

31st December 2020

The basic essence of customer research involves understanding the preferences, needs, and desires of your customers. It enables you to gain insights into their decision-making process and the factors influencing it. Conducting effective customer research allows you to gather feedback on various aspects such as new ideas, products, and your brand, enabling you to make informed decisions to launch new offerings or enhance your competitive advantage.

Engaging your customers in the research process not only aids in developing better products and services but also fosters a sense of involvement, making them a part of your business journey. By including them, they become more connected to your brand, increasing the likelihood of their purchases and word-of-mouth recommendations. To assist you, here are some valuable tips for conducting customer research.

Define Your Target Customer

Regardless of the size of your business, there is an audience or peer group available for conducting customer research. The first step is to identify your ideal customer, allowing you to tailor your marketing messages and develop products that resonate with them. To determine your ideal customer, consider the following questions. Avoid being too broad, as considering everyone as your ideal customer will result in communicating with no one. Invest time in answering these questions to gain a clear understanding of your target customer.

  • Who do they live with and where?
  • What is their occupation?
  • What is their age?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • Where else do they spend their money?
  • What are their aspirations in life?
  • What obstacles hinder them from achieving their dreams?
  • What are their concerns or worries?
  • Which social media platform do they prefer?
  • How do they spend their leisure time?
  • What are their preferred reading materials, movies, and music?
  • Whom do they seek advice from?

Choose Your Research Approach

Once you have identified your ideal customer, you can select the customer research method that suits your needs. Regardless of the approach chosen, it is crucial to establish clear objectives for the questions you will be asking. For example, do you require feedback on a product, marketing message, or any other specific area? Ensure that you have a well-defined issue for which you seek insights. The following are different formats of customer research you can employ:

Focus Groups

Although focus groups are commonly used by large companies, even small businesses can organize them. Start by finding a suitable venue and recruiting participants who align with your ideal customer profile. Invite your existing customers and leverage your network to find suitable individuals. Consider inviting around 15 people to account for potential dropouts. Prepare the questions you will ask (more details on this below) and moderate the group discussion. Introduce all participants, establish any rules, and outline how answers can be provided. It is advisable to record the session and take notes for subsequent analysis. Group common responses together to generate actionable insights from the group's input.

Online Surveys

Create an online survey using platforms such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. Distribute the survey through your email list, social media channels, Facebook groups, and request friends, family, customers, and peers to share it.

Polls and Questions on Social Media

Whether you have a small or large following on social media, you have an audience to solicit feedback from. Utilise polls on platforms like Facebook and Instagram Stories as an easy way to obtain instant customer feedback. Such interactions also increase post visibility due to Facebook's algorithm, enabling a broader reach.

Feedback from Online Customer and Business Groups

Identify business-related Facebook groups where you can seek feedback. If you are targeting a specific customer group relevant to your business, ask individuals within these groups to guide you in the right direction. Some recommended business Facebook groups to start with include:

  • Female Founders in Retail
  • Small and Mighty Business Community
  • No Bull Business School

Select the research method that you feel most comfortable with to initiate your customer research. You can start with smaller steps, such as polling your audience on Instagram Stories, and then progress to conducting online surveys or creating focus groups.

Questions to Ask During Customer Research

While gathering feedback, it is essential to frame open-ended questions to avoid leading responses. Simple yes or no questions may bias people's opinions and fail to provide the specific and detailed answers required. Prepare yourself to receive honest feedback and remember not to take it personally. Keep in mind that you seek feedback to improve your product and business, making it valuable to listen to suggestions. Here is a list of questions to ask or use as a starting point, while tailoring them to suit your specific business:

  • What type of fabric/material/finish do you prefer?
  • What motivates you to purchase a new [insert product here]?
  • Which colour would you choose?
  • Which other product would you compare this to?
  • Would you like to see any additional features?
  • What is your favourite feature of this product?
  • What aspects of this product do you dislike?
  • Who else is offering something similar to this?
  • Don't hesitate to dig deeper into the answers. For instance, if someone wouldn't use a particular feature, find out why. Similarly, if there's a desired feature, explore the reasons behind it. Valuable insights can often be found within such responses.

Furthermore, if possible, provide a prototype for customers to touch, handle, and use. Invite them to test, taste, use, or wear it, and seek feedback on how it feels, performs, and meets their needs.

Offer Incentives

Finally, consider providing incentives to encourage participation in the research process. Offering opportunities to win a free product or a gift card can greatly motivate people to take part.

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