You’ve done everything you can think of as a local business to get more people in the door and online. From open houses to glossy mailers to mobile coupons and loyalty cards, if it’s a marketing tactic, you’ve tried it.
And the needle hasn’t budged. Maybe projections are even a little off for this month. Now, you’re more than concerned. You’re starting to panic.
One classic marketing tip we’re fond of recommending to our local business clients is customer interviews. These conversations can be game-changers. What do we mean by customer interviews? It’s simply a quick phone call, set up via email or in person if at all possible, to ask your most loyal customers a few questions:
We want to make shopping for [your business product or service here] the easiest it can be for you. (Or you could say “the most fun,” “the best date night” or other descriptive term, depending on your business.) What can we do to make this happen?
Often, people are reluctant to give criticism, even when you’ve asked for it. So, you might have to make suggestions such as: “We now checkout on Square, using iPads. What do you think about the new checkout process?
Now, with a few nuts-and-bolts questions out of the way, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter. You’ll want to ask one or two inquiries about the products or services you currently offer: “What do we offer that is exciting to you?” “What do you wish we carried in men’s casual wear?” “Is the new menu something you are enjoying?”
Make sure to give the customer plenty of time to answer. Try not to talk. Just listen.
The final question is the one that might stop you in your tracks. You are going to ask what frustrates the customer about the business you are in. You are looking for pain points and new products or services that you can implement later on.
Here are some sample questions for three different businesses:
- What is frustrating about ordering custom framing?
- What about making reservations for a special event is frustrating to you?
- What frustrates you about selecting the right tennis racquet?
Here is the answer you might hear to the custom framing question:
When I step into a frame store, I never know if the person behind the counter really knows what they are doing. I think, maybe it’s just a kid who was shoved behind the counter with no training.
Solution you’ll offer a month later: Concierge appointments online. From a simple drop-down menu, clients can choose a drop-off time and a sales person. Bios about each framing employee with photos are prominently posted.
Six weeks later, you’ll give the salespeople buttons for their aprons that read: “Lunch & Frame.” You are courting the business person with concierge services, so you’ll set out a tray of sandwiches, bottled sodas and cookies. From there, it’s an easy step to send targeted mailers to your clients letting them know they can receive professional, personalized service—and then be on their way.
This last question (“What frustrates you?”) is a great one because it gives your client a chance to vent about their wants and needs. And it gives you a chance to offer enhanced services or new products, all based on customers who already support and admire you.
Make sure to follow up with your customer by sending a short note of thanks. Their pain points and your business experience are a winning combination.
Olga is Senior Manager of Sales and Marketing Operations at Connectivity.