data

Data by Blue Diamond Gallery CC BY-SA 3.0

How much do you know about your customers?

One of the first things I ask new clients for is information about their customers. And it’s surprising just how little data many business owners have on who their customers are and where they are coming from.

You may think you know.

You may believe that having a general idea is good enough.

But unless you are looking at a good collection of facts and figures, you’re really just guessing.

 

Gather Your Data:

 

Utilizing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system such as SalesForce is a great way to track all of the necessary information you need for nurturing leads, managing current customers, and gaining invaluable insights.

Even a simple spreadsheet set up in Excel will do the trick.

In addition to basic demographic data such as age, gender, location, etc. you’ll want to track:

  • Phone, email and address (and other pertinent contact info.)
  • How they contacted you (was it via email, phone, walk-in…)
  • How they heard about your company (was it from a friend, an online search, a networking event?)
  • What products and services were they interested in? And what did they purchase?
  • Any other item that is critical to your business

Why is this important?

Several years ago I had a client that wanted to start doing some email marketing to their current and previous clients. They knew these were the people who were their best source of referrals.

One look at their client database showed that any effort put into email marketing, most likely wouldn’t yield the results they were hoping for. Why? Because they did not have email addresses for well over half of those on their list. No email for over half of their database.

Had they been actively tracking their data, they would have realized a lot sooner that they needed to address this. That they needed to make asking for an email address part of the routine information they gathered early on from both clients and prospects.

Once you have been keeping track of this data for a while, you’ll start to notice commonalities and patterns that you can use in making decisions about marketing your business.

 

Using Your Analytics

 

By now most business owners know the importance of having analytics software – such as Google Analytics – set up on their site. But there are two key factors that can make the data gathered useless:

It’s not properly set up: That huge jump in traffic you got may not be all you think it is. If you haven’t set up filters to exclude IP addresses from you, your team, your web developer…. that boost in traffic could have just been you checking changes from your latest site update.

The set it and forget it mindset: Tracking key metrics of your website provides invaluable insight into how people are finding and interacting with you online. But these metrics aren’t any good if they’re not being used.

  • If a business doesn’t know how much traffic is generated from a marketing campaign, how can it know if the campaign is working or not?
  • If a business doesn’t know where its customers are coming from – emails, social media, partner sites – how can it know where to invest its resources?
  • If a business doesn’t know what content its prospects are – and are not – engaging with, how can it know what to improve, and what kind of content to focus on?

 

Talk to Your Customers

 

Even more valuable than online metrics is real-world, direct feedback from your customers. What your customers know, think and feel about you.

A couple of years ago Inc. published an article highlighting key takeaways from a Quora discussion about why startups fail. One of the more common reasons cited for startup failure was not talking to customers.

The same can be said for small businesses.

The data we collect and the metrics we track only tell part of the story. Our customers are our best assets in improving upon the products and services we offer.

So talk to your customers. 

Don’t just ask vanity questions about if they liked it. Challenge yourself. Challenge the product. Ask tough questions about your service offerings that will get you deeper insight.

  • What product do they use the most? And how do they use it?
  • What aspect of your service do they most appreciate? And what just isn’t working for them?
  • What about your business would make them recommend you to a friend, a colleague, their boss? What wouldn’t?
  • If there was anything they could change about a product or service, what would it be?

Then take that information and write it down.

Put it in a spreadsheet. And disconnect from the feedback emotionally. Look at the data objectively to see what’s going on with a particular product or service. Use it in making decisions and adjustments moving forward.

Many business owners don’t make concerted efforts in gathering data. Thinking they know it all without making an effort. They don’t have time. Or their instincts have gotten them this far. But following your instincts 100% of the time – without having the data to back them up – means you’re focusing on you, not your customers.

So make sure you’re on the right track – and track your data!

For more on what you can be doing to build a solid foundation for your business, check out: