Know-thy-customer. As marketers, it’s probably the single most important aspect of our job. Just knowing what’s going on in their world can have a tremendous impact on how you market to them. But when was the last time you spent any real time conversing with an actual customer?
Why is it so hard? These days it’s hard to find time. Not only are the days packed with meetings, but budgets are tighter and there’s fewer staff to do the work. We believe, with a little effort, and discipline, you can find a way to get closer.
This is the perfect opportunity to observe and interact with your audience. How? Walk around and observe. Listen in on conversations. Start your own conversations — find out what their job is like and what their issues, fears and aspirations consist of. Ask questions but most importantly, LISTEN.
Having trouble getting people to talk on the tradeshow floor? Go to the lobby of the hotel (or heck, even the bar) and look for attendees who still have their badges on. Have ten questions in your pocket ready to go.
People are more talkative when the mood is relaxed. And everyone chill-axes over food. Befriend a customer or two — or 12, take them to coffee, lunch, dinner or drinks and get the conversation rolling.
Ask if you can hang out in your customer’s office for a half a day and watch what’s going on first-hand. This sounds crazy but it really works!
Send occasional online surveys to those customers who opted in to email contact. Sometimes a thank you will suffice, but offering a small incentive generally increases participation.
Commit to calling one customer every two weeks. Ask them not to comment on your product or service, ask them what’s worrying them, what are the major initiatives they are working on, what are the biggest challenges they face and so on. Be sure to reward them in some small way for their input.
Create an ongoing customer sounding board to solicit opinions on concepts, offers, product developments and marketing programs. Rotate members to eliminate burnout and make sure you’re staying abreast of trends. Again, reward them for their time and input.