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To Know Your Customer, You Just Need to Ask the Right Questions


Ask most business owners who their customer is and they’ll likely point to demographic characteristics or the different types of media they consume to support their answer. While these data points always are important, they’re just that—data points—without a more intimate understanding of what drives your customer to make a purchase decision, and more important, when she or he is likely to make it.

It’s true … we live in a brave new data-driven world that is stunningly (frighteningly?) easy for both ecommerce companies and mass retailers to collect granular details about shopper habits. Data that they can then use to generate insights on their customers’ habits and behavioral attributes.

How do you compete with that technology if you’re in one of those businesses where you can’t obtain a deep customer profiles? Or simply don’t have access to that level of in-depth detail?

We encounter this data disconnect particularly with consumer or in-home services brands. Accurate information is even harder to come by in categories where the sales cycle is longer or more considered, or when purchases are driven by a specific, perhaps acute, need. This is key—because if you don’t truly know who this customer is, if you’re not targeting the type of customer appropriate for your brand, you risk losing them to a competitor who is.

So are these companies destined to be left behind in the data revolution? Not if they use data for what it does best, and trust themselves to continue doing what they’ve already proved they do best.

While it’s not easy to create the perfect data model of your customers, there are still ways to better understand them. The right answers start with asking the right questions:

• What problem is your customer trying to solve?
• What other solutions have they considered (or will they consider)?
• What information do they need before choosing?
• Where do they get that information?
• Do they do their own research, or do they rely on referrals from family, friends or social networks?
• Do they simply follow the brand they perceive to be the market leader?
• Which customers are selecting your competitors over you, and why are some leaving you altogether?

By answering these questions, marketers in less data-rich categories can build a better understanding of their specific customers. Even better, that puts them in a position to target the right customer with the right message—at the right time.