What Do You Know About Your Customers?

customer surveys

customer surveys

Effective small business marketing relies on a sound knowledge of your customers (current and potential).  Survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey, can help you gain the necessary knowledge about your customers.

To be effective, small business marketing must be targeted and this requires a deep knowledge of your customers.  For example, with LinkedIn Ads you can target job title, organization or professional group.  With Facebook Ads, you can target your advertising based on gender, age and interests of your customers.

How well do you know your customers?

What do you know about your customers’ typical characteristics?  Have you any idea of the demographics of your customers, their preferences or their typical behaviour in different situations?

The following topics might give you some idea of what information you could gain about your customers (current and potential):

  • gender
  • age grouping (e.g. Generation X orY, Baby Boomers?)
  • interests (hobbies, sports. films)
  • where they find their entertainment
  • whether they work from home or in an office
  • how they use their mobile phone
  • where they live (city, country, local or global)
  • what they are willing to spend their money on
  • how they behave in different economic conditions (e.g. in a recession)
  • what kinds of presents they buy
  • close relationships – married/ de-facto, family size, same sex couples
  • how they spend their holiday time
  • where they converse on the web via social media.

If you lack information about your customers, your small business marketing activity will be untargeted and costly.  However, one way to overcome this lack of information is to survey your customers (current and potential).

Survey your customers with SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is a dedicated online survey service that is free for stated levels of service.  At present, the SurveyMonkey service is free where you are using no more than 10 questions per survey and receiving no more than 100 responses per survey.   When you work on a likely response rate in the vicinity of 10-30%, then this is a generous offer.

Even at this basic free level, SurveyMonkey enables you to design a web-based survey with an introduction explaining the survey purpose and different types of questions, e.g.  fixed response or open-ended questions.  It is super easy to use and you can very quickly design a survey that will increase your knowledge of your customers.

The basic level service of SurveyMonkey enables information collection via a weblink, email or Twitter; through a website pop-up; through embedding the survey on your website; or by placing the survey on your Facebook page.

SurveyMonkey will collate your results and give you access to the responses online.  At the free level of service, you will receive some basic analysis of results but you need to upgrade to get more sophisticated summaries and analysis (e.g. charts such as bar chart or pie chart).  However, for small business marketing you can often get by with the basic analysis of results.

Here’s an example of the analysis of results for a simple ‘work type’ question that I used to survey a group of readers of my e-Learning Blog:

SurveyMonkey survey results

Other questions in my survey on SurveyMonkey covered the frequency of access to the blog, how the information on the blog was used and suggestions for changes.   This was a blog that I was contracted to write for the Queensland Department of Education over an 18 month period, so I needed to know the relative make-up of my audience, how the blog was being used and what improvements I could make in the information provided. 

Your potential survey activity is limited only by your imagination and your willingness to find out more about your customers.  Earlier this year, when my joint venture partners and I were developing Wizzley.com, a community for online writers, I used SurveyMonkey to find out the ‘article categories’ that members of my mailing list would like to see included.  This helped us to round out the more than 3,000 categories for articles for our site.  So through the survey, we basically established what topics my current email subscribers would like to write about on our new site for social networking and article writing.

Effective small business marketing requires a deep understanding of your customers and tools like SurveyMonkey help you to gain the requisite knowledge to achieve target marketing in a cost effective way.

7 Benefits of Focus in Small Business Marketing

 focus - small business marketing


Focus is a key component for small business success.  When we write about focus in the context of small business, we are talking about your focus on a target market, on specific offerings for that market (products and services) and on specific marketing strategies. 

Without focus, you are attempting to be all things to everybody, and that is a recipe for failure. 

This article is not about how to decide your focus, that’s another issue.  What I am exploring here are seven (7) benefits of focus in the hope of assisting you to build and maintain your own focus. 

1. Focus builds commitment

When you decide your focus, you are immediately inspired to action.  You suddenly see a way ahead and your goal is seen as achievable.  The act of choice – deciding what to do and what not to do – frees up your creative capacity and enables you to move forward.  The experience of progress builds commitment to your chosen course of action. 

2. Focus saves time

Focus stops you from trying to be everything to everybody.  Trying to fulfil everyone’s needs is both time consuming and exhausting.  Focus saves you time because it enables you to let go of a lot of things and concentrate on the things that are important. 

3. Focus overcomes information overload

In this era of endless information, your focus helps you to decide what to look at and what to avoid.  It becomes a benchmark for deciding relevance.  For example, I used to focus on affiliate marketing and I would read everything I saw about the subject (a massive area).  Now that I have re-focused onto small business marketing, I can let all the affiliate marketing information pass me by.  

4. Focus attracts others

When you are focused you demonstrate commitment, enthusiasm and energy – all personal qualities that attract others.  Think of someone who is really focused and recall the energy they emit and how much easier it is to be attracted to them and their business  In contrast, think of someone who is “all over the place” in their activity. This lack of focus makes it really hard to get on board and get energised by what they do.  In fact, this kind of person can actually repel you because they tend to “suck up” your own energy because their energy is so dissipated. 

5. Focus develops disciplined energy and enhances productivity

You have to have discipline to focus your energy in the first place.  Then, as you grow and maintain your focus, you strengthen your discipline and you begin to develop productive habits.  Your deepening focus enables you to ward off distractions, to set priorities and to choose activities that will lead more directly to your small business goals.  Focus brings into play the power of concentration. 

6. Focus develops expertise and Trusted Authority status

Through your focus, you are better able to increase your knowledge and understanding of your target market and their needs.  You feel more committed to use your expertise and core competence to help your customers solve their real, everyday problems.  Through this assistance with problem resolution you are able to build your status as a Trusted Authority – one who is not just an expert but who has demonstrated the capacity to use their expertise to help customers solve their problems.  So you become the Trusted Authority in your marketplace. 

7. Focus creates wealth

Focus enables you to direct your energy and creativity to identifying and meeting your customers’ needs – the foundation for real small business growth and personal wealth.  As a friend of mine, Jennifer Ledbetter, often states in the context of small business marketing:

If you are willing to do for a year what others won’t,  you can spend a lifetime doing what others CAN’T.

Focus brings multiple rewards.  It builds your commitment and develops your Trusted Authority status.  Through focusing you save time, overcome information overload and attract others.  Focus helps you to develop disciplined energy, to improve your productivity and, in the final analysis, to create wealth.

Small Business Marketing Mistakes (1): Outpacing Your Customers

small business marketing mistakes


In a recent webinar, Greg Habstritt, creator of the Trusted Authority Formula, identified a number of mistakes in small business marketing made by entrepreneurs and small business owners.  He went on to describe a fundamental mistake that many small business owners make – a mistake that he called. “The Field of Dreams Marketing”.

This mistake arises when you assume you know what your market wants and then create a product or service based on these untested assumptions.  If you have missed the mark with your assumptions, you find that your sales are poor.  This is a very common mistake in small business marketing and I know I have been guilty of this one.

The core problem for small business marketing is that sometimes your knowledge and understanding of the needs of your customers outpaces their own perceptions.  You have probably spent a lot of time working with customers, analyzing your market and offering a range of products/services.  Out of these interactions, you have identified some recurring, foundational problems.  Then based on this knowledge and understanding, you launched a new product/service – but the market did not buy.

Your customers have not arrived at the same conclusions that you have in relation to possible solutions to their problems.  There is a mismatch between your perception and theirs about their problems (needs) and possible solutions.  Until you demonstrate that you are meeting their needs (as perceived by them), you cannot influence their (buying) behavior.

Sometimes, this mismatch in perception can be addressed by patient re-education – an approach that Greg Habstritt and others adopt for product launches via a progressive series of webinars, videos, workbooks and podcasts.  The goal here is ultimately to have your potential customers share the same perception you have about their core problem(s) and possible solutions (reflected in the program/product being launched).  Donald Schon (1984), in “The Reflective Practitioner”, described this approach as helping people to “re-frame the problem”.

However, this re-education approach can be very time-consuming and costly and you need an expensive product to make it worthwhile and considerable credibility (Trusted Authority status) to be able to pull it off.   More often than not, small business marketers don’t have the funds, patience or time to undertake such re-education.  Instead they expend time, money and effort on creating a new product that very few people see the need for – and hence very few sales result again, if any.

A cheaper and more reliable approach is to find out what your customers want – what they perceive their needs to be.  This can be achieved by surveys or via discussions with customers (by phone, Skype, face-to-face).  The starting point is to find out what their “greatest hurt” is – that is, where they are hurting the most in relation to the potential products and services that you are equipped to offer.

In my studies of organizational psychology (1983 – many years ago), I learned that changes in human behavior are motivated either by a desire for pleasure or desire to reduce pain, the latter being the stronger driver of the two.  If you can tap into what is “hurting” your customers, you are better able to create products or services that meet their perceived needs.

Small business marketing options where you have outpaced your customers

Even if you have created a product that “outpaces your customers”, there are some options you can explore to recover from this mistake.

Here are some small business marketing options you could use:

  • Offer free access to some of your key customers to enable them to gain exposure to what the product has to offer
  • Undertake market research to ascertain the core issues as perceived by the customers (this may lead to re-naming or re-orienting your product or creating an entirely new product)
  • Develop a series of products as a marketing funnel leading to the “outpacing” product as the final offering
  • Develop a re-education program incorporating an e-book, podcasts, workbook and webinars that lead to the “outpacing” product
  • Design an introductory product that focuses on where the customer experiences “hurt” – and on-sell from this new product
  • Break the “outpacing” product into separate components that customers can directly relate to.

The solution to remedying this small business marketing mistake may lie in adopting one or more of these options.  The ultimate choice of a small business marketing strategy should be grounded in the business vision and business goals.

This discussion highlights one of the core mistakes that you can make in small business marketing and suggests some options for redressing the mistake.  It also reinforces the need for market research as a central requirement for small business marketing.


Small Business Marketing: A Personal Odyssey

Human Resource Consultancy

Our small business was created in 1996 and following the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, we found that we had to become actively engaged in online small business marketing.

Up until the GFC, our gross income had been growing at around 20% per year and we did not have to actively market our small business.  Most business arrived by word of mouth through the professional services provided by our HR consultants.

However, with the GFC, our business income dropped by 50% in six months.  So we had to look at ways to improve the income from our small business.

We decided to do three core things:

  1. expand our service offerings (e.g. include training)
  2. broaden our client base
  3. actively engage in online marketing for our small business


In 2010, we engaged Anne Corcino to redesign our static website into a dynamic WordPress website.  Anne’s website services are offered through her small business, SEO Praxis.

The new website design became a real platform for our online small business marketing.  Our HR consultants were proud of our site and our clients were suitably impressed.  Because the site was built on a WordPress platform, it has SEO embedded and is easy to update and add value.  Our RSS feed from the blog is an important aspect of our marketing.

What I will report here is my own experiences and ideas in marketing our small business.  So this blog is very much my small business odyssey – my journey into the challenges of small business marketing.