CUSTOMERS are the heart of your business, whether you are a sole trader or a company of thousands.
Without customers our businesses will just bleed out.
My question to you is – where are your customers right now? What are they doing? How are they coping with the fallout of the Coronavirus?
Odds are that you don’t know. And that’s to your business detriment. Because if you are delivering products and services to customers and you are trying to build loyalty then it’s now time to show that you value that loyalty.
And you now have the time to invest in building this knowledge – and to use it not just to build relationships but also to prepare your business for the future.
No matter the circumstance, we should all take the time to really know our existing and potential customers – why they have chosen our products or services, what they like about our business, what they would like to see us introduce or improve into the future and what they tell their families and friends about us.
The information we build through interacting with, observing and asking our customers will be the difference between our businesses chugging back to life in painful fits and starts over the coming months or really hitting the ground running.
This information is broadly what “customer intelligence” is all about.
What is customer intelligence?
Customer intelligence is simply about collecting and analysing information from the people who choose to (or have thought about) buy our products or services to find out how our business can continue to meet their needs.
This information helps us build insights and then create ways to reach more customers and build loyalty with existing ones.
In this uncertain and shifting marketplace, these insights may well mean the difference between your business never opening its doors again or reaching new heights as we all recover from the economic impacts of Coronavirus.
How do I build customer intelligence?
Large businesses use a number of complex tools, platforms and business analysis specialists (sometimes teams of them) in their focus on securing customer intelligence. Sole traders and small businesses often don’t have the time and the resources to do this.
That said, there are some simple ways to build your knowledge base.
Firstly – make a few lists to identify your key customers and champions. You may have a customer database that you’ve built through a loyalty program, or social media (Facebook, Instagram) followers, people who have reviewed your business, or even emailed you over time.
You will reach these people in different ways, however the conversations you may have with them, the questions you may ask them, the information you may offer will be different. You could run polls on social media, send out surveys or questionnaires – or you could even create an experience where you can connect with customers and have conversations with them during that experience. Social media allows you to create connections and experiences.
Let’s say you own a restaurant or a cafe and have had to close your doors. How do you find your customers and keep and improve relationships and build customer intelligence during this time?
One simple recommendation would be to build a community – a quick idea is to live-stream a cooking class – and market this in advance. Invite your followers to watch and learn. Use this time to find out why they spend their time and money in your cafe, which meals they most prefer, what else they would like to see on your menu and the list goes on. Find out who they are, what their preferences are, which celebrations mean the most to them and just as importantly how they are adapting in these tough times. You never know what you will learn that will bring a new perspective to your business.
At the same time you may post the video of the cooking class across your social media channels and website, you may email a link to customers and then invite them to watch the next class. All the while you are building relationships and finding out more about customers to help ensure your business stands the test of time.
Over time this customer intelligence may lead to a slight pivot in your business – for instance as a cafe or restaurant streamlining live cooking classes you may include an offer to deliver all the ingredients of the meal in advance to your local community – perhaps enough for five classes at a time. This ensures that your customers stay connected and that you embed loyalty into your business.
What do I do with this information?
In a nutshell, information is power. If you are the local cafe or restaurant you may find out that your potential clients only go somewhere else for particular celebrations because the competitor offers extra services, or a better experience. The obvious solution is to then use this information to improve or innovate your business through new services or enhanced experiences. As a cafe, you may develop gourmet baskets or even themed picnic offerings for customers that showcase local cheese or fudge makers – the list of opportunities is endless. As a restaurant, you may continue online classes and form relationships with local producers to supply ingredients to your loyal followers. In this way you are also supporting other small businesses and creating a more valued experience for your customers.
As previously mentioned, the way we do business has changed. And as small businesses we are faced with the choice to either adapt or perish. That adaption begins with understanding customers and using insights to evolve the way we do business to ensure that we remain relevant.