Customers are the life of every business. Your company won’t exist without them. So how do you find out what they’re thinking? You ask them! But there’s a real art in getting them to respond in a meaningful way.
Follow these five steps to meaningful customer feedback.
1. Know your customer
First, you need to know as much as possible about your customer. Identify your core customer. To help figure this out, review your sales figures. In most businesses, 20% of your customers generate 80% of your profits. This is your core customer.
Write down as much as possible about this customer and how they interact with your products and services. How old are they? Male/female? Why do they need your product? Why do they like your product? What are they passionate about? Where do they live? How do they live?
Develop this into a full narrative about your customer. Give them a name.
2. Throw a party
Now that you know who you are targeting, get them to talk. In person feedback is the best way to get nuanced information from your customers. Ask your customer to demo your product. Watching your customer interact with your product will almost always provide incredible insights.
Get a group of customers together. Throw a party. When we were starting PrestoBox, we threw Brand Genie launch parties where we invited people who matched our core customer description to give our software a whirl. We did it on a shoestring budget by borrowing cool space in the penthouse lounge of a friend’s apartment and catering the food ourselves. We watched silently as people went through the process, then talked to them individually and finally brought the group together for a discussion. All the while we kept it light and fun – enticing them with the “magic” of the Brand Genie. The feedback we received was priceless.
The event doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be consistent with your brand.
3. Remove yourself
The “party as focus group” is a great way to dig into what your customers are thinking and feeling. However, customers aren’t usually as honest when you’re right there. You need the brutal truth.
Remove yourself from the equation and do some blind tests. Our favorite source for these types of reviews is UserTesting.com. You define who you want to test your product and then get feedback in an hour with videos of your target customer speaking their thoughts as they use your website.
We tested our product this way and were startled at the results. It was clear after watching the videos that our logo builder product was broken. All of the users said that they needed more variety before they would consider making a purchase. It was the first time we heard this so directly. This feedback immediately changed our priorities and we got to work creating thousands of new logo options.
This service works great for online companies – however it can be replicated offline as well. Just remember to remove yourself from the equation.
4. Send email
Email is one of the most effective ways to get customer feedback. However, you need to do it right. The average person receives over 100 emails each day and is increasingly annoyed by messages they did not ask for. Make your email relevant and more likely to get a response by taking time to craft it.
A request for feedback email is not the same as a newsletter. Keep the email short and leave the graphics out. Start by making it personal. Use the person’s first name and insert a personal message. If the recipient knows you took the time to write this email, they may take the time to respond.
Online surveys can be an incredibly effective way to gather information. However, clicking on a link takes extra time and your response rate may decrease. Try embedding your question in the email and then tally the results by hand.
Use “because”. When you want people to take an action, always give them a reason. Response rates will go up significantly if you tell your customers why it’s important. One word can make a big difference. Try to incorporate a few of the most persuasive words in the English language: you, free, because, instantly andnew.
5. Call them
Reach out to your customers on the phone. In today’s digital era, a personal phone call stands out and can be a great way to get feedback. Handle your calls with care. Make sure you are friendly, professional and uber respectful of their time.
A great time to call is after they place an order. You’ll be on their mind and they will be more inclined to help. Do leave personal messages if your customer doesn’t pick up. Treat these customer calls just like you would a call to a dear friend.
Follow these steps to get meaningful customer feedback. And once you get it, remember to circle back and let these customers know what you did with it. Tell them when you launch your new products and thank them again.
Photo Credit: Eugene Kim/Creative Commons
Logos help businesses big and small create tremendous value and instant recognition. It represents everything you do. Logos use colors and images to affect our emotions. Whether it’s the red in Red Bull (aggressive), or the green in Starbucks (relaxed). And this influences our buying behavior.
The problem is that most businesses struggle to create a logo. Some pay millions (Pepsi spent $1 million). But logos don’t have to be expensive. Nike paid $35 for its swoosh. Google paid $0 (founder Sergey Brin created it on his own).
Whether you spend a lot or a little, you must invest the time to determine what you want that logo to say about you.
Follow these steps to jumpstart the process.
Step 1: Know what you stand for.
Define who you are. What's the promise that you’re making to your customer? Make a list of the key attributes of your brand. You may be known for customer service, quality, or speed. Try to narrow your list to three or four. You’ll make more of an impression as you focus your message.
Step 2: Know what you look like.
What colors, fonts and images convey your brand promise? Look at companies you admire and notice how their choice of color and design conveys their values. For example, whites can convey simplicity and purity. Greens can convey new beginnings and growth. Blues may be more appropriate for a business with traditional values. Each color brings out different emotions. The colors, fonts and images you choose to represent your business can make a strong and lasting impression.
Step 3: Get some help.
You've determined your foundation. Now get some help. If you can only spend $50, you will walk a narrow path. Agencies will charge an arm and a leg. So get online and surf the web. Try out one of the online logo builders. Don’t use clip art. Post your creative brief at some of the crowdsourcing websites and see what comes back. You have defined what you want and will know it when you see it.
Step 4: Create a whole system.
With your new logo, you now have the foundation of your brand in place. Make sure you build from this starting point so that all of the parts and pieces of your new brand work together.
And then, say hello to new business!
Think a brand is just for big businesses? Think again. Branding is critical for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Your brand is what the outside world thinks of you. That’s it. Although you can influence your brand through well-designed logos, hilarious ad campaigns, carefully crafted press releases, or super-friendly service, ultimately, your brand is what the outside world says it is.
Why bother? Because strong brands are the key to customer loyalty and higher sales. The Economist recently reported, “Brands are the most valuable assets many companies possess. But no one agrees on how much they are worth or why.” Strong brands inspire loyalty, and we can’t always put our finger on exactly how they do it.
SEE ALSO The Definitive Guide to Building a Brand
Branding can be a daunting task for small businesses and it’s easy to think brands are reserved for the Nikes and Coca-Colas of the world. But branding is even more important if you’re a small business.
Four reasons to brand your small business:
A brand makes you look bigger
If you scream “small-time vendor,” or “mom working in her bathrobe,” that is how your customers will want to compensate you. Branding will help elevate your business. Research other businesses—who do you look up to? Find an example of what you want to look like.
A brand builds credibility
If you want people to trust that you can deliver, you need to look the part. A well-designed brand is as important as brushing your teeth before the first date. Think about what you stand for and communicate that to your customers in everything you do, from the colors you choose to the words you use.
A brand makes you memorableStand out from the crowd, in the right way. Your customers have to remember you to find you. If your potential customer Googled your service, what would they find? Identify elements of your business that are different from your competitors, and showcase them in unique ways.
A brand attracts customers
When customers understand who you are and what you offer, they think about doing business with you. When they trust you and begin to love you, they tell their friends. Once your brand is solid, word of mouth is the best way to grow your base. Ask your customers for reviews and referrals. Make sure they know you appreciate the business. Build on great reviews by showcasing your happy customers. Grow your business further with well-planned and brand-consistent marketing campaigns, using the same colors, fonts, and personality.
SEE ALSOCustomer Focus and Consistency: Keys to Strong Brand Building
Case Study: Dermatology Associates of SW Washington
When Dr. Elizabeth Dawson joined Dermatology Associates of SW Washington, she knew she needed to change the “face” of the practice in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive medical marketplace.
But the practice couldn’t afford to go to a branding agency, where prices started at $50,000. Dr. Dawson tried working with a graphic designer, but after five fruitless rounds of logo designs and thousands of dollars spent, she still didn’t find the brand that she was looking for.
So, she changed her approach. Dr. Dawson needed an affordable, easy solution and started with the Brand Genie, an automated tool to define your brand identity. She worked through this process with her team to figure out what they really stood for, what they wanted their patients to remember about them and tell their friends.
Dermatology Associates defined a brand that felt right to them. We call it “elegant simplicity.” The core brand attributes are professional, caring, intelligent, honest, and respected. The benchmark brands are Apple, Nordstrom, and Trader Joe’s.
Those words sound great, but what does that look like? What is the color for “professional and caring”? How can fonts—not just words—convey “honest and respected”? What images demonstrate “elegant simplicity”?
Each of these details were addressed. The brand quickly came to life as the design system was created. Dermatology Associates chose a beautiful palette of colors, fonts, and images—all designed to work together and consistently convey their brand attributes.
Take a look at the before and after:
Before: Not sure what we stand for, but we know we’re located in the Pacific Northwest.
After: Elegant Simplicity!
This small business instantly looks bigger and more professional. It builds credibility with its customers as it conveys the attributes that are important to them—caring, intelligent, honest, and respected. This small business also becomes much more memorable as the system starts to work, with all customer touch points conveying similar messages.
And finally, it attracts customers. Who would you rather see?
With its new brand in place, Dermatology Associates is positioned to generate more patient traffic, strengthen the loyalty of existing patients, and solidify relationships with referring physicians. In other words, the practice is now ready to do business.
“Our new brand greatly improves our image and the face of our practice. It helps us convey that we’re current and modern, yet still warm and welcoming.”
– Dr. Elizabeth Dawson, Dermatology Associates of SW Washington
SEE ALSO 4 Ways to Turn Your Website into a Marketing Heavyweight
Did you work hard to brand your business before you opened, or did you work on branding after the fact? How has your personal brand affected how you do business?
Sara Conte is a frequent contributor to online discussions about strategy, branding and entrepreneurship.