How to research and listen to your ideal client

It was a difficult time for us—’testing’ may be the right word. We were about to graduate, and really needed to land on a job. Campus placement means security, confidence, avoiding peer-pressure, meeting expectations of parents and society, and what not. Like for my other mates from the engineering graduation class, there was a tremendous pressure and burden on my shoulders and mind. The year was 2004. The placement scene was not bright. There was a big debate whether computers would lead the future or whether they will die a premature death. The big dotcom bubble had just happened. Things were unclear. Then, we had a seminar by somebody who was in electronics industry and had also worked in the Indian Air Force. He told us that the engineering industry is not able to fill the required number of jobs that it creates. We were like ‘what?’. Talk to us. We are ready. We need/want those jobs. Then he gave us the reasons for such a confusing situation in which graduates believed there were no jobs while companies and industries believed there were not enough qualified people who could fill their HR needs. There were two major reasons: one was of course that the quality of engineering graduates was under scrutiny; but the second one was that there were not too many resources where recruiters and potential candidates could connect. Both parties did not know how to do it. What companies are looking for, and what graduates are looking for? This gave rise to a culture of placement consultants and job agents. Further, numbers of placement websites were launched, and lots of new businesses emerged.

The gist of this story is that businesses really need to research and listen to their ideal customers. The customers might be thinking that there is no business which could fulfil their needs—it’s just a matter of right type of connection, and knowing where to target such customers.

Listen to your clients

As a business owner, the best feedback you can get is from your own clients—existing and potential. They may be responding to your surveys, conversing in online groups and forums, updating on social media channels—you really need to keep your ear and eyes open to spot such feedback and strategize your marketing plans accordingly. Your marketing plans may change every month or even earlier given the nature of your business, if you really listen to your customers, which actually is not bad and may be a good strategy.

Relying simply on market reports would not do good for you because they are often generalized, and may be completely non-contextual for your own business. The best bet would be to dive deep into the conversation. Social media has given a lot of empowerment to the customers, and they love to talk about products and services on these platforms. Use them to get first-hand intelligence. The more you are able to feel the vibe and pulse of the needs of your customers, the more you stand a chance to win over their hearts.

Social media intelligence

Social media is a great channel to accumulate popular and contextual information about what the customers are searching for, looking for, and also talking about. Hashtags are great ways to really go deep into the search terms on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. If you search for a keyword related to your business and then go on to curate through various associated hashtags, you will see the actions and reactions of the users without frets—it will be a honest chatter coming directly from their hearts. It won’t be the paid, bought, and customized information that some intelligence companies try to sell you. Twitter trends, Linkedin groups, Facebook groups, and Google+ communities are some such sources which could lead you to your actual clients.

I have seen a lot of businesses incorporating social media feedback into their customer satisfaction program and providing direct customer care from their social media channels. They don’t even ask their customers to call them on phone and wait for 20 minutes before they could actually connect to an executive after tediously navigating through various IVR options. They encourage their users to use social media channels to provide better service. Business like to engage with users on social media because a satisfied customer on social media means an influencer who would impact his/her network with positive feedback towards the business.

Reader surveys

To know more about your existing clients, readers surveys are very useful. You can ask them openly to give their opinion, feedback, suggestions, and even complaints to know what they like, what they want to be improved, and what they do not like at all. You can conduct these surveys through emailers, a simple form on your website, or even using social media. These are simple methods and involve a very less cost to the business.

Conclusion

These are volatile and innovative times—good and bad for the businesses. However, if you are clever enough to use the bad times to your advantage, you can reap benefits.

Online shopping and social media has empowered the customers like never before—they search, research, and do their home-work before they buy. Once they buy, they like to tell others they have bought. If the shopping experience was good, they will tell it to others and recommend you. If it was a bad one, they will sound their warning trumpet against you. They will make doubly sure that at least people in their network don’t buy from you.

So, be careful and listen intently. Tend to your customers like a concerned guardian. Listen to them and respond. Make them feel you really appreciate their feedback, and you would go to any length to make their shopping experience with them a pleasurable one.