Knowing who your customers are and what they want is fundamental to the success of any business. After all, if you donít continually match your products or services with your customersí changing needs, theyíll quickly find what theyíre looking for elsewhere.

Many business owners do their initial market research when setting up shop, but donít keep their findings current. If that sounds familiar, then itís time to get reacquainted with your customers and realign your business to suit their needs.

How to Get the Insights You Need

By knowing who your customers are, you can determine the most effective (and profitable) ways of approaching them. A lot of customer data can be put to good use: from broad demographic details to insights that reveal a customerís interests, opinions and lifestyle. This information could inform how you pitch your next advertising campaign, or even help identify new channels to find potential clients.

To find the information you need, take every opportunity to open a dialogue with your customers. Online surveys and feedback forms are a good starting point, but nothing beats an in-person discussion. If you have a brick and mortar business, try offering incentives in return for face-to-face customer time. You could even set up a focus group from your regulars.

As well as finding out who your customers areóor if your customer segment has changed in any wayóalso ask if they have any ideas on how to improve your products or services.

Donít forget to see whoís talking about you online. Twitter, Facebook and sites like YELP and TripAdvisor provide an eye-opening look into customer opinions, and can let you know if youíre in tune with your target market. Itís a great opportunity to address any grievances too.

Making It Personal

So, now youíve gotten to know your customers, how can you translate that into action?

One great customer-data driven tool is a Ďpersonaí. Thatís a character that embodies the traits of your real customers Ė from their average age, salary, gender and more.

Creating a few personas for each of your customer segments can help you precisely target your next marketing campaign. With a clear picture of your customers in mind, you can position your business in a way that appeals directly to them.

Aligning to Your Customersí Needs

If, during your research, your customers suggest changes to your products or services, thatís great, but donít make any knee-jerk reactions. You canít be everything to everyone, so avoid making changes based on feedback from one or two people. Look for common themes from a large sample and back them up with research and facts.

Check the feasibility of any customer-suggested changes to your business too. Can you afford them? Do they align with your companyís Value Proposition?

Getting to know your customers should be an ongoing exercise, so be sure to add the process to your marketing strategy. Your customers will thank you for it, and youíll thank your customers for the continued business they bring your way.

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