As a business owner, you think about your customers every day. Still, it's a good idea to make time to regularly reflect on how your products and services meet their current needs. This begs the question to small business owners and entrepreneurs alike: "What do my customers really want?"
There's no single way to answer this question. How you gather your data will depend on your business, and it may change over time. Kabbage customers explain below a simple hack to getting to know your customers better: simply asking them.
Ongoing survey data guides bakery choices
The humble suggestion box used to be a fixture in many businesses seeking input from customers. Today, business owners have digital tools for gathering suggestions, making it easy to find out what customers want. Laura and Johnny Hobson, owners of Serendipity Cafe in Maynard, Massachusetts, make a habit of surveying customers on everything from bread preferences to cafe hours.
"We really try to connect with the community," Laura says. When she and Johnny started out with a farmers market stand, they collected customer email addresses; in the cafe, customers can add addresses in the point-of-sale system. Laura and Johnny then use online tools like SurveyMonkey to ask for feedback.
The survey results guidedthe couple when they launched the cafe and new data helps them ponder new products and services. "When we were outgrowing the farmers market, we asked really specific questions about how often people would come to a cafe, what products they would buy, and what the town already had enough of," Laura says.
Adjusting pricing and creating a welcoming vibe
For Michelle Baker, owner of Next Level Fitness and Personal Training in Kansas City, Missouri, asking, listening and observing is key to understanding what local residents needed. She worked for another personal trainer before opening her own gym, and heard clients complain about high prices for classes and personal training sessions.
As a 23-year resident of her moderate-income neighborhood, Baker knew that locals couldn't afford hundreds of dollars a month for training. She also knew that her neighbors had unique wellness challenges, like diabetes and weight control, which might make them hesitant to work out in a crowded gym with body-building regulars. For many people in her community, fitness is about developing healthier habits.
When Baker launched Next Level Fitness with her husband in 2009, she knew that affordability and an inclusive, welcoming gym environment were key to growing the business. "We had to keep prices low enough so that the average person would come to us," Baker says. Next Level offers an introductory six-week program of training sessions for $99, an accessible price point for her customers.
Baker and her husband boost cash flow by teaching small group training sessions. "That way we maximize the time we spend training," she says. She's also added services that will help her customers achieve their fitness and health goals, like nutritious ready-to-cook meals.
To ease customer concerns about working out with others, Baker posts regular videos on her Facebook page showing the diversity of body types, fitness levels and ages of her clients. "When people see the videos, they think 'I see people who look like me,'" Baker says. "They know no one's going to make them feel uncomfortable. We're a smaller, friendly gym where everyone knows everyone, and no one feels out of place."