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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

2 Critical Questions to Ask Your Customers

Written By: George and Mary-Lynn | No Comments

2 Critical QuestionsWe took advantage of the beautiful weather in our area over the weekend. We love to get out of our small city and go for a drive. There’s an outlet mall about thirty minutes from us. So we stopped and shopped!

We like to combine work and play. While we were playing, we got a couple of ideas for posts, including this one – thanks to a clerk at one of the stores we visited.

1. Where are your customers from?

As we made a purchase, she asked us for our phone number. She said, “We like to know where our customers are from.”

Where are your customers from? Isn’t that a critical question to ask about your customers?

Geographic area
This is what the store we were at wanted to know. If you own a local business, you probably want to know this too. It may be useful for targeting specific areas in your marketing activities.

Marketing activity
Large companies can invest in their brand over a long period of time. As small business owners, we can’t afford it. When we spend money, we need to see a return in the short term, while also building our brand long term.

So discover what marketing activities are driving people to your business. While this is an inexact science, you want to determine as closely as you can if your investment of time and/or money in various activities is paying off.

Consumers often segment the research and the purchase. They may do some research on you as a result of one marketing activity. Then they may respond to another one to make a purchase.

[George] Prior to us starting BIGG Success, my businesses all largely relied on inbound telemarketing. By that I mean that our customers called us to schedule projects. Our customer service reps might have asked, “How did you hear about us?” Later in the process, we might also have them ask, “How did you get our phone number today?” We often got a different answer from the same caller!

In this case, both activities were important. But you only find out about them if your process pulls the information out. (Obviously, you don’t want to annoy your customers with too many questions.)

However, you have to balance that with your need for information. The trick is to guide your customers through a process where these types of questions feel like a natural part of the conversation.

Demographics
There are a number of factors that you want to understand about your customers. What is their level of education? How much money do they make? What is their occupation?

Of course, you may not want to directly ask some of these questions. You may want to survey them anonymously.

This information helps you target your products and services better. It’s also highly likely that your future customers will be a lot like your current customers. So it helps you qualify prospects.

2. Where are your customers going?

The second question is arguably more important. Where are your customers going? That is, what do they want to accomplish? What challenges do they face in getting there? How can you help them? The type of business you have will dictate how you find this out.

Retailers
If you sell high-ticket items, you’ll likely have more opportunity to engage with your customers. So let’s look at the tougher case – let’s say you’re a retailer serving lots of customers with relatively small purchases.

While they’re checking out, you may ask them if there was anything that they didn’t find. Keep a list of their answers. When you start seeing something over and over, you may want to add that item to your inventory. Start small, see how it does, and go from there.

Consumer services
For a consumer service business, the question is very similar. “Is there anything else that I can help you with today?”

[George] We used a version of this in my former businesses. It was amazing the projects we uncovered. For instance, we served homeowners among others. We often learned that they were considering a remodel from this simple question.

Business services
If your business serves other businesses, the best way to find this out is the hard way – talk with them! We say it’s the “hard way” because so few business owners do it. So it must be hard!

In reality, it’s just a simple conversation. We do this. It takes some legwork to keep in touch with your customers at this level. But it’s the best way to find opportunities.

Because nobody likes to be sold. People like to buy.

Discover what your customers are trying to accomplish. Uncover the problems they’re having getting there. Then share your solution with them. How can they resist?

What questions do you ask your customers? 

Article written by
George Krueger and Mary-Lynn Foster are the co-founders of BIGG Success, your place for entreprenurturing(TM). They also co-host "BIGG Success in a Minute," a syndicated radio show now playing on stations around the United States.