In a sense, business is really about problem solving: delivering products and services that solve the problems that people have. Demand is fed by the needs and wants of consumers and other businesses.
Businesses that continually monitor and assess those needs and wants are more likely to be successful in developing attractive and competitive products and services.
How well does your small business monitor, identify and analyse the problems your target customers wish to solve? It's actually a multi-part question:
- what do your customers want to achieve?
- what are the problems that stand in their way?
- how well do your existing products or services address those problems (relative to the competition)?
- are there some problems that no-one is offering to solve currently?
Traditional methods of customer feedback remain hugely important. For example, we meet or speak with dozens of small business owners daily, and our interactions often teach us something interesting about what is going on in the business world and about the problems and issues our customers are dealing with. We try to identify any themes that emerge from those discussions, and come up with ideas to help our customers whenever a new issue emerges. Our new social media marketing service is a great example, offering assistance to those small businesses who are looking to establish a business presence on social media platforms for the first time.
Technology offers new and interesting ways to learn about the problems and issues that people need help with. Consider, for example:
- social media; having a dedicated page for your business on sites like Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter can offer an array of opportunities for interaction and feedback through comments, likes etc. Building an online community around your brand can lead to more insights into what products or services people might find useful.
- feedback platforms; sites such as Surveymonkey.com offer really interesting ways to seek feedback from current or potential customers on a huge range of issues. These platforms are very flexible and can be used, for example, to i) seek feedback on current levels of customer satisfaction; ii) run a questionnaire on other "wants and needs"; iii) take a poll (would you prefer x or y?), as well as any number of other permutations.
- social listening; Google Alerts provides tools to monitor what customers are saying about your business - and your competitors too.
We recently used Survey Monkey to survey our small business clients, to try to identify new ways to help. It was a very insightful experience, to say the least! One of the direct results from the survey is the new "Finance fundamentals for business course" course which we will be launching shortly - people told us they would like to improve their financial skills and confidence, so we will try to solve that problem with this new offering.
Ultimately though, if you really want to know what your customers want, it is still hard to beat having an open conversation, one-to-one, over a nice cup of tea.