One simple step to better marketing: ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS

Sonja Jefferson

Ask your customers

In December, most small business owners snatch some time in between signing Christmas cards to think back over the year and assess how the business has fared. You’ll check the figures – profitability, margin, new clients won – and compare these with previous years. Even if this year has been a good one, you’ll wonder how to improve your marketing to weather the storms that may lie ahead next year. But where do you start?

There’s one really simple thing you can do to kick off your marketing efforts in the New Year. Before you even think about calling in the designers to redo your website, starting a blog or recruiting a new sales person, get some feedback from your customers on the work you’ve done to date.

If you devote some time and careful attention to this, you’ll be delighted by the results and your business will benefit in more ways than you think.

Five good reasons why asking your customers for feedback is a great idea:

  1. Customers like to be asked. Contrary to what you may think, your customers will welcome your request.They want to tell you how they feel about your work and what would make the process even better for them in the future. Simply asking them makes them feel valued.
  2. Your customers are the best people to tell you what you do. There’s nothing more powerful in marketing than the ability to see your company through your customers’ eyes. Ask them how they’d describe your company if they were recommending you to a colleague. You’ll be surprised by the results. Often what you think you’re good at is not where the real benefit lies. This will give you a whole new perspective on what you do.
  3. They’ll tell you how to market your business. Your customers know how they want to be communicated with and what information they like to receive. Ask them, and they’ll tell you honestly. They’ll show you where to focus your marketing efforts in the coming year.
  4. You’ll get testimonials for your website. Positive feedback means valuable testimonials for your website. Most clients are happy to give you a testimonial after a successful project, but they find it difficult and time consuming to craft one. This process will ensure you get meaningful quotes without too much effort on your clients’ behalf.
  5. It will boost your confidence. I’ve conducted this process for many of my clients this year and all of the feedback has been positive. Any criticism has been wholly constructive. It’s a hard slog running a business and glowing feedback is a welcome boost, particular in these uncertain times.

It’s important to put some careful thought into this before you speak to your customers. Here are a few tips on how to approach the ‘ask your clients’ process to get the best results:

  • Pick 5 key clients. Not just your most successful projects, but your most important projects. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback. Most clients know the value of constructive feedback, and you can learn valuable lessons from their comments.
  • Ask your clients’ permission and brief them well. I’ve found that this process normally takes about 15 minutes of their time. It works best if you email them first and say that someone will contact them shortly to book a slot in their diary for a telephone conversation.
  • Get someone independent to contact them. The process works best when someone unconnected with the project/client conducts this process. Clients tend to be more open and honest if they talk to someone they don’t know who was’t involved (and it’s less cringeworthy for you!).
  • Structure your questions. Here are a few ideas:
    • “What were you expecting from Company X? What did you buy?”
    • “How have they helped you? What problems have they solved?”
    • “How do they compare to other approaches you have looked at?”
    • “What advice can you offer them for future projects?”
  • Record their comments verbatim. This is far more powerful than somone’s interpretation of the feedback.
  • Thank them personally for their help.

Start the New Year with a bang. Before you do anything else on your marketing for the coming year, try getting feedback from your customers. You’ll be amazed at what you get back.

Further reading: for some enlightenment on the client perspective, have a look at Sonia Simone’s fantastic article ’50 Things Your Customers Wish You Knew’.

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