As any business owner knows, few things are as important or valuable as understanding the customer. The more information you have on a customer, the better you’re able to target them, engage them, and attend to their needs. However, the reality of the situation is that very few businesses know anything of value about their customers.
Importance of Gathering Information
At the very heart of data collection is the desire to understand who you’re marketing and selling to. Without an accurate understanding of things like who your customers are, what makes them tick, and how they respond to certain situations, you can’t maximize profits or grow.
Take, for example, the decision to move from one city to another for the purpose of penetrating a potentially profitable market. Let’s say your thinking about moving from New York City to Atlanta. If you made the decision to move without gathering any data on the unique demographics of Atlanta, you wouldn’t know that most people don’t actually live in the city (only 450,000 of the 5.5 million metro area residents). Instead they work in the city and live in the northern suburbs. This is contrary to New York, where millions call one of the five boroughs home.
As for marketing, you also wouldn’t understand the average Atlanta consumer. Whereas New York City is fast-paced and progressive, the average Atlantan is used to a more steady, conservative approach. While these specific insights may not be obvious to anyone, it just goes to show that different markets produce different people and you have to do your due diligence and gather information before making critical decisions.
4 Specific Methods for Collecting Information
When it comes to actually collecting information and data, there’s some flexibility in the approach. Here are a few common methods:
- Surveying. Surveys are obviously a preferred method for many companies. They allow you to uncover specific insights and gather more information about particular subjects. Thanks to the internet, you can now conduct cost-effective polls across a wide sample in relatively little time.
- Studying online trends. You can learn a lot by looking at your website analytics and other online trends. From these insights you can learn more about how customers search for your company, whether they connect with the marketing messages you’re sending, and how they feel about particular issues.
- Using customer service records. Do you have a robust customer service department that frequently communicates with consumers? By logging these calls and studying common themes, you can better understand where the average customer is coming from.
- Accessing available data. Honestly, it sometimes just comes down to finding the right data. Using websites like Statista.com or Census.gov, you can uncover a lot of valuable information with a few simple keystrokes.
Tips for Collecting Data
When collecting data from customers, its important to be specific, respect privacy, and maintain consistency. Doing each of these three things ensures your data is accurate and honest. Lacking in any of these three areas will compromise the quality of your information and possibly lead you astray in the future.
As a side note, building partnerships with businesses in your industry (not direct competitors, though) is a fantastic way to increase your access to data. You can mutually share insights, allowing each side to benefit from the other’s work.
Be an Informed Business
There’s a huge difference between a business that operates on whims and assumptions and an organization that makes decisions based on rich insights. The former frequently makes mistakes, while the latter finds itself in the black more often than not. Learn to gather demographics, develop rich consumer profiles, and adapt to satisfy the pain points of your customers and you’ll experience frequent success.