If there’s one tenet of small business (or any size business, really), it’s:
Know Thy Customer
Without understanding what your customer wants and needs, how can you deliver products or market to her in a way that speaks her language, that she can identify with?
Finding Out What Your Customer Wants
Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you can’t get afford to get valuable insight into your customer’s psyche. Sure, you can conduct a focus group, but if that’s not in the budget, try more cost-effective options, like social media and surveys. Not sure what color you should make your next product? Tweet about it and ask for input.
I recently started following Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, on Facebook. What I love is that she asks for her fans’ input on what photo to use for the book jacket of her next book, and even which cover design to go with. She understands that a) if it doesn’t speak to her audience, it won’t sell, and b) by asking for her fan’s opinions, she’s better engaging them in the process.
You can do the same, whatever the social platform, or through a tool like SurveyMonkey, and find out what makes your customer tick.
Going Off the Beaten Path
Is it safe to offer similar, but better quality products than your competitor? While yes, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find customers who like you better than your competition, you’re still missing out on the unseen niches. Let’s say you sell financial products to medium sized businesses. You compete with the big players like Quicken, who have much deeper pockets to market their businesses than you do. So how can you get a bigger chunk of market share? Look at what the big players aren’t offering, and then look at what your customer base wants. Maybe they want easy invoicing and payment processing they can pay for per transaction, rather than a large subscription fee. You could offer that.
Sometimes there’s a great deal of money to be made in the smaller niches, so pay attention to the needs that aren’t being met with other companies, and figure out how you can provide products or services that meet those needs.
Constantly pay attention to your customer, as her needs will be ever-changing. Continue to offer innovative solutions to her problems, and you’ll have no problem growing your brand.