Do you look through your customers’ eyes?

September 16, 2019

The advantage of very small business

Very small businesses are great at customer engagement. They have to be because that’s the only way they can compete. They don’t have vast resources to buy stock at scale or hire lots of staff. A family restaurant may have only have one or two outside employees, a doctor may only have a nurse, bookkeeper and receptionist, and a freelance designer is probably completely on their own.

But this means they are dealing with all their customers directly and on a regular basis. They hear the compliments, the complaints, and the suggestions. They see their business through their customers’ eyes.

Stuck in the middle

At the other extreme, the CEO of a large corporation may never have a personal conversation with a customer. But they have the resources to spend millions on marketing and branding research to learn their customers’ needs.

The problem is for companies in between, where layers of management precludes regular, direct customer contact, and budgets for research are limited. What often happens as a result is that all the marketing spend gets allocated to demand generation activities, and none to customer and market research.

These companies are so anxious to get their message out that they neglect to listen to their customers, or potential customers. As a result the message often misses the target, because how can you hit your target if you don’t know what it is?

I had a client a few years ago who, when I suggested they do some brand research, replied by saying, “what happens if we discover things we don’t want to hear?” I said, “Precisely. You’ve just justified the exercise!” Another common response I hear is “we did that a couple of years ago and we didn’t learn anything new.” To which, I often say, ‘customer needs and brand preferences and competitive and market forces are always in a state of flux. The picture from few months ago can be markedly different to today’s. Research will always confirm what you already know and hopefully, reveal some surprises too, but it’s often the process of formalising insights that prompts strategic action.’

The best way for companies in the middle to see their brand through their customers’ eyes is to regularly conduct both quantitative and qualitative surveys. There are many agencies who know how to structure these and ask the questions and do the analysis that will improve your bottom line. As for implementing the quantitative surveys, the cost is minimal and can be done with services like SurveyMonkey.

Given the barriers are low and the benefits are high, all organisations should take advantage of seeing their brand through their customers’ eyes. The very worst is that you learn what you already know, and take action. The best case is that it can change your brand and business for the better.

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Darren Taylor

MD & Head of Strategy and Research

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