To make your business successful, it's essential to understand who your customers are and what they want and need. Gathering buyer data is useful, but it can only go so far in helping you really get to know them. Sometimes it's worth going the extra mile to connect on a deeper level with current and future customers.

The following six entrepreneurs share the methods they've found most effective for getting to know who their customers really are -- and explain how you can do the same.

Create a private Facebook group.

You may not be able to count on customers to come to you with constant feedback. But creating a Facebook group gives clients a forum to openly discuss both problems and successes.

"Recently, we launched a private Facebook group for our customers," notes Syed Balkhi, co-founder of conversion rate optimization software OptinMonster. "The conversations we are having help us get to know customers on a personal level. The Facebook group is helping form a community where bloggers can help each other out, and they can also ask us questions in a more relaxed and casual way."

Take clients to lunch for project discussions.

"When we work with our customers, we do several lunches with them where we discuss project updates," says Piyush Jain, CEO of mobile app developer SIMpalm. Face-to-face interaction is a great way to create personal connections with clients.

"This really helps us to know the customer more as a human," he adds. "It helps in building a personal relationship between our project team and the client, which always lead to better outcomes. Clients also like to spend time with us and get to know us as people rather than just technical brains."

Take advantage of feedback software.

Sometimes you just don't have time to reach out to every client individually, but that doesn't mean you can't find ways to hear from them. "We love the Listen360 customer feedback software, as it sends out a brief and easy-to-use survey after every appointment," says Rachel Beider, CEO of massage centers Massage Greenpoint and Massage Williamsburg.

"We can immediately see who our promoters are and who had a less-than-perfect experience, which gives us an opportunity to reach out before we might lose that person as a customer," she notes.

Turn negative reviews into repeat customers.

"When a buyer leaves a negative review, it is a great opportunity to connect and find out why they did and how to make your business better," says Chris Gronkowski, creator of shaker bottle Ice Shaker. Instead of feeling discouraged by a bad review, make contact and figure out what your business can do better.

"I have connected by phone with customers who have left negative reviews and had a chance to get to know them," adds Gronkowski. "Not only was I able to solve their problems, a lot of the customers were so happy with the customer service that they become repeat customers."

Meet clients where they are.

Jennifer Barnes, co-founder and president of operational accounting and strategic consulting firm Pro Back Office, LLC, notes: "If you really want to understand your customers, you need to spend time with them." Grabbing a coffee with a client is great, but you can make the meeting even more productive by attending events that are important to them.

"Go to their hosted events, listen to them speak and find out what they are interested in. Network and attend events that are in their industries and their interests. Meet with them on a regular basis," suggests Barnes.

Send out Q&As.

When you're sourcing customer data, think creatively about what to ask and how. Adrien Schmidt, CEO of API-based analytics platform OpenBouquet, recommends "sending out a Q&A about the customer with an incentive for them to fill it out."

"It gives you insight into who you're dealing with, and I always like to include some non-business related questions," he adds. "It's a fun way to get to know my customers on a more personal level."

Published on: Sep 25, 2017