Regardless of which sector your business is in, whether you provide products or services, sell to individual consumers or businesses, whether you say customers or clients, do you really know the people that buy from you?
When starting your business journey, you probably undertook some customer research, profiling your target market and identifying who would buy your product or services. For some, this initial step may have been many years ago and, since then, you have built up a database of contacts. Some of these buy from you and others you continue to hope might make a purchase in the future.
Given the changes that we have all had to make to our daily lives and the variety of ways that COVID-19 has impacted individuals and businesses, we have had to adapt to a new way of life. This has certainly changed the way businesses operate but your customers, or the customers of your customers, may also have re-evaluated what, where and how they make purchases. They may be reviewing alternatives, changed their business model or focus, their previous purchases may no longer be suitable, or they may have diversified and /or changed their buying behaviours. So what you thought you knew about your customers may no longer be correct.
Even if you are confident that you have all of the above scenarios covered, now could be an ideal opportunity to get reacquainted with your customers and test if what you think you know is correct or if your customers' requirements have changed. You may even discover that you can provide products or services that you didn’t realise they required. It is equally important to understand what customers value, why they buy from you and how you add value to their business.
There are several tools and methods to assist you in understanding what customers require, what they value and what drives their purchasing decisions. These tools include market research questionnaires, surveys, requesting feedback, focus groups, all of which you are probably familiar with. These are all very useful, but care needs to be taken to ensure that the questions asked are not biased to what you think you know or the answers that you would like.
Another useful and visual tool to ensure you know your customers is The Value Proposition Canvas, developed by Alex Osterwalder. It helps you to understand your customers' businesses by identifying the jobs they undertake, their pains and gains, which allows you to explore how your products or services add and create value for your customers. It includes information on using some of the tools mentioned above and how to analyse and test your findings. You can find the Value Proposition Canvas at Strategyzer.com.