In his classic book The Practice of Management, management guru Peter Drucker declared, “The first step toward finding out what our business is, is to raise the question: ‘Who is the customer?’ – the actual customer and the potential customer? Where is he? How does he buy? How can he be reached?”
You can’t communicate with your customer if you can’t answer these questions. Yet these questions often are missed by the novice marketer.
Answering those questions requires marketing research. Marketing research should start internally with the information you already have. For example, the classic business inventory – how many of which products have we sold – can tell the seller what its customers want to buy. If you have a service company, you should know which of your services are in most demand. In my agency, for example, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to show us that as the 21st century dawned, the clients’ demand for online marketing services was growing rapidly. Our response was to develop an in-house interactive department to meet our customers’ need.
Another tool that we have found useful is talking to our employees and suppliers about what they’re hearing from clients. While not very scientific, these “interviews” can yield valuable information, such as a tip from a media salesperson who told us of one of his advertisers was unhappy it couldn’t get a specific service from its agency – a service my agency could supply. Needless to say, that dissatisfied company went on our prospect list, and it later became a client.
Of course, the best way to find out what customers or prospects want or need is to ask them. Using surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, etc., you can periodically determine your customers’ needs and react to satisfy them. These information-gathering techniques have a number of ancillary benefits: