When you’re running a business, you’re making decisions every day that could have effects long into the future, creating success or risking failure for years to come. To be responsible, you need to keep yourself informed, so you’re making informed decisions, and the two most important things to stay abreast of are your customers and your competition. These are the factors that have the most direct influence on your business, and the most power to promote success or to create the risk of failure.
Today we’re taking a look at how you can learn about these two important factors, so you can feel confident in your competitor strategy and your customer-facing plans.
Getting to Know Your Customers
One very direct way to learn about your customers is to talk to them. If you’re running a small business, based in a single location rather than retailing online, this has all sorts of benefits. You can learn what brings people to your business, why they chose it over the alternatives and crucially, what those alternatives are. When you know who your customers are weighing you against when they’re deciding to make a purchase, you know who your most meaningful competition are, and what makes you stand out against them.
Along with what you’re learning, you’re also building crucial bonds with early customers, getting to know what they need and what they like, and delivering the kind of service that results in more orders and word and mouth buzz. Unfortunately this approach also has its limits. It produces anecdote rather than data, and it doesn’t let you reach beyond the people who’ve already chosen to walk into your shop or office. It doesn’t help you understand why people aren’t choosing your business.
As you grow, and start to take your place on the wider stage of your market, you need to learn more about your customers and it’s at this point that it’s well worth starting to look into market research firms. Along with having the reach survey a broad cross section of consumers – not just the ones directly available to you – they have the skills to turn the raw data into actionable insights. They can tell you what you need to do to use that data to build future successes.
Learning About the Competition
You may also need help to understand who you’re competing with and how to do it effectively. Consultants can help you identify and prioritise the different businesses who are also trying to tempt your customers to spend their money with them, and wargame how they’re likely to respond in different circumstances so you can make informed plans to maximise your return on investments. These consultants can charge significant amounts to