Your Pot of Gold Awaits
Knowing just what your customers want is like finding the pot of gold at the end of the entrepreneurial rainbow. If you know exactly what they are looking for and how much they would pay to get it, you could guarantee profits for yourself by meeting those needs precisely while leaving a healthy margin for yourself.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have magical leprechaun powers that can lead us to that profitable pot of gold. However, you can combine time-tested methods of customer analysis with secret spy tricks and new digital tools to make some excellent guesses. Then, you can implement and test your hypotheses as you inch ever closer toward the goal.
Most of the thinking and planning comes at the beginning, because it requires steps such as market and competition research. But when the heavy lifting is over and you have a strategy in place, all you have to do is execute the plan and make the necessary adjustments. If you do it right, your pot of gold will fill quickly.
Think Like a Customer
Your best resource has taken decades to develop and has become a well-honed preference machine, precisely suited for its target audience: you. Your first step in discovering what customers really want is simply to think about what you would want. At first, you might be tempted to think that what they want is the products you sell. That might be lawn mowers or carpet cleaning services. But you need to go a step further and think about benefits. If people buy your lawn mowers, the benefit may be something like a beautifully manicured lawn at an affordable price, hassle-free. If you offer carpet shampooing services, the benefit is carpets that look as good as new. Make your best guesses, and keep notes about both your products and their ultimate benefits.
Think like a Spy
Once you have ideas, try to hunt down clues that will tell you if you’re on the right track. If you own a storefront, watch your customers as they browse the aisles and select merchandise. If they are chatting as they do it, listen in (without being a creepy stalker, of course). When your customers are at the register, make small talk and ask about why they chose their purchases, how they will use them, and what else they would like to see in your store. People love talking about themselves, so give them the opportunity.
If you don’t own a storefront, you can ask these questions on the phone. You can also follow your customers on social media and read the reviews they leave about competing businesses. We also highly recommend visiting places online where your customers congregate. Read reviews on places such as Amazon.com, and follow boards for products like yours on Pinterest. You could also find subreddits and stackexchange sites about your technology offerings, if that’s what you do, or could look in on neighborhood Facebook groups, if you offer local services.
As a customer preference spy, your mission is to spot holes in the market and collect the names and phrases people use for offerings like yours. Find out what they like and what they don’t like, and be sure to notice any new uses for your products that you haven’t yet considered.
You will also need to do some recon on the competition. Check out their websites and look for the kinds of words they use. You can also visit their stores to spy on customers, and check their ads to learn about their marketing strategies.
Think Like a Scientist
You have initial ideas and a bit of informal market research. Now, finish gathering information using formal research methods. You could start with some sly A/B split testingAlso known as A/B testing, this is the practice of showing different websites, content or ads to randomized groups of users to gauge how well those elements are performing. in your store – put two products side by side with different branding, and see which flies off the shelves faster. Do the same with coupons and package offerings. You can also try a customer survey asking what customers like best about your business.
Next, take advantage of technology. Type the phrases you gathered as a spy into search engines and see what pops up. Leave out your brand name. If you find businesses like yours (or your own business) with your selected phrases, you’re on the right track. If you find educational information, read it, but don’t use those phrases when you try to sell. You can also familiarize yourself with analytics reports from search engines to see how people are getting to your website or use free keyword research tools to see what they’re looking for online.
Think Like a Hacker
Don’t worry, I’m not talking about stealing data or spreading malware. It’s more about the hacker mindset. Use your research to find out how selling is done in your industry. Then, think of creative ways to do it better. Come up with new ways to meet customer’s needs. Focus on low-cost alternatives, and integrate marketing messages right into your products. Give customers what they want and tell them you’re doing it.
Once you have implemented your ideas and allowed a few weeks to pass, test and reassess. What worked, and what didn’t? If you find problem areas, are they dead ends or were they wrong turns? Keep trying things until you find success, and don’t give up. Be as persistent, and innovative, as a wild rabbit during mating season.
Now Go Out and Make Some Money!
You may never turn into a little green leprechaun, but you can discover what your customers really want if you think carefully, watch closely, plan strategically and execute confidently. When you know what your customers want, you will know what to give them. Then, you will automatically find ways to profit from your hard-earned knowledge. It’s still a pot of gold, even if you have to mine it yourself.