The competition for any small business gets tougher every single day. Even if you launch an innovative new venture, you won’t be the only player for long. Business is ultra-competitive and with the online tools now available, the barrier to entry has never been lower. With the internet and information available, people are starting businesses in their droves.
Luckily the vast majority of small businesses do NOT know what I’m about to reveal to you. These techniques will get you ahead of your competition and stay ahead of your competition.
The secret is quite simple, but your competition is very unlikely to know it. Understanding your customers is that secret weapon. You need to understand your customers better than your competitors understand theirs. That is the secret to putting yourself in pole position.
Here are 7 ways to understand your customers or clients better:
1. Interviews with Current Customers
Interviews can take many forms, including email, video chat and in-person. In a video interview or in-person interview, you can ask almost any question and get immediate feedback. You can then shape further questions based on their responses. It’s this 2-way communication that makes you understand them better than almost any other method available.
Here are 3 questions you can directly ask your customers:
- How would you describe our product or service to your friends?
- Why did you nearly not buy from us?
- Why did you choose us over our competition?
2. Web Stats
If you have a search box on your site, what are the terms they are using on your site to find what they want? Going through previous web form submissions can also be enlightening. What phrases and terms are they using? These terms are straight from the horse’s mouth. You should gather these and look through them regularly.
It’s not the worst idea in the world to visit your competitor’s website and see how they are presenting themselves to their customers. Be warned though, it may very well be a case of the blind leading the blind. They could be copying their competitors, and therefore doing a very bad job of it. Some gems can be unearthed, but don’t think you can copy them for some magical transformation of your business. Aim to understand your competitor’s tactics, and get to the underlining strategy of why they say to their audience, rather than just copying them word for word.
4. Amazon Review Sites
Amazon is a goldmine for small businesses to understand their audience better. How do you use it, you may ask? The magic lies in reviews of products related to your industry. If you have a gardening business, then I can bet there will be multiple books published for gardening. You go through the many reviews and see what the people are saying about that book. 5-star comments that praise the author tend not to be useful as the 2/3/4 star reviews. People reveal more in lesser reviews and it’s these that the gold is found. What problem do these people need to be solved better? What gaps are there in the market? What phrases and terms are they using?
5. Reddit and Quora
Your audience is likely to be chatting on one or both of these sites. There are millions of people a day interacting. Try using the internal search for your specific industry or niche.
Or a little Google trick is to use site:quora.com [your keywords]
This will search only Quora for the keywords of your choice.
Of course, site:reddit.com [your keywords] will search Reddit.
Both Reddit and Quora are a treasure trove of information and two sites where you can learn more about your audience.
6. Industry Forums
In every topic under the sun, there are industry forums and community sites. This wasn’t possible before the internet but don’t underestimate the understanding of your audience that these sites can give you. Your questions about your audience have likely been asked previously. If not sign up and get involved in the community. Start small and help others. Don’t just go on and post 5 questions. Help people, see things from their side and build up trust within the community.
These are now very affordable to do with dozens of options online. The questions that glean the best results are similar to the interview ones above. Why did you choose us over our competition? What would you say recommending us to a friend? Ask questions and try and get them to open up as much as possible. You will find that people will be more than happy to tell you what you ask.
Is This a One-off Activity? Do I Need to Repeat this Process?
If launching a new business you want to spend a significant part of your time understanding your audience using the techniques above before committing to a new business.
If you are already in a business and have a solid understanding of your audience then you can relax is a little. 6 months is a good yardstick to repeat the process. However, different industries move at different speeds, so your mileage may vary.
As we have discovered, understanding your audience better than your competitor’s understand their audience is the secret to small business success. I have given you some very powerful and game-changing information. With great power, comes great responsibility. Use it wisely. Get ahead and stay ahead of your competition.