“It’s the next big thing. You can’t lose. It’s a safe bet. Everyone will want this.” These statements have been made countless times by entrepreneurs and innovators at start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike. Many have uttered those statements based on a “gut-feeling”. Some of these big ideas are so enticing that investors have gone along – and been taken for – a ride because the lenders didn’t bet on data; they bet on the promise.
Contrarians have balked at these promise statements with equally popular idioms like “better safe than sorry” and “there is no sure thing”. Those contrarians understand the value of customer research and appreciate how customer insights can be collected, translated and leveraged as a platform for business growth. Here, we present three ways to use customer research to grow your business.
1) Convert Pain Points into Revenue Streams
Admittedly, people routinely make purchases on a whim. The level of discretionary spending dictates what level of purchase they can afford for something they “fancy” versus “need”. However, the vast majority of purchases that customers make every day are based on need. People purchase products and services largely because they have a problem or need that needs to be solved or satisfied.
Simply asking existing customers what problems or challenges they are experiencing, what works (or does not) about the products and services they are currently buying and what product do they wish for is not only insightful, it can be downright transformative to your top line. It is that identification of their problem (or pain point) that leads to an opportunity for a new revenue stream once you design a solution to address or eliminate it.
So, is it really as simple as asking a customer “What is your pain point? What keeps you up at night?” Absolutely! Salespeople always ask those questions. Why? Because if the salesperson can identify a problem that their prospective customer has, and if the salesperson can offer their prospect a reasonable solution, the prospect will soon become a customer. People pay to solve problems. If the pain point is great enough, people will pay whatever it costs in exchange for resolution.
Customer research dedicated to pain points can be broad or highly focused. Based on our experience, there are five key areas for exploration into customer pain points.
- Feature Function. Does the product do what it’s intended to do?
- Productivity. Is productivity enhanced by this product or has productivity through its consumption compromised ability to perform?
- Does purchasing the product or service impose a burden that creates a new problem for the customer?
- Process. Are there any opportunities to improve the workflow from product development to purchase?
- Support. Once the purchase has been made, are customers receiving adequate support to ensure the product is meeting expectations and delivering on its marketing claims?
Such conversations with existing customers for commercialized products can inform future versions of the product. Uncovering pain points, shortcomings or wishlist features are a source of information that will inspire improved or enhanced market offerings. Customer research efforts will not only reveal tweaks or incremental ways to grow your business but they can also spark innovative and novel ways to do so.
Practice this mantra: “The customer is always right.” Customers know what they want. They may have trouble clearly articulating it, but they are willing to share their ideas of how to make their own lives better. You need only to ask.
Customers, especially in today’s era of social media which has fueled expectations for an immediate response, are very quick to tell companies what they should and should not be doing. If you are not listening to and delivering on what your customers are asking you to do, be prepared for a viral Tweet-storm of angry feedback. Instead, utilize customer research that enables companies to explore, test and challenge new concepts to help delineate how far the brand can go without crossing the line. If your company, product or service is no longer on-point, your customers will not only let you know in a negative online review, but they will also speak with their wallets. Conversely, if your customer research has uncovered a new path to grow your business, those insights will be positively reflected on your P&L.
3) Market Test Business Growth Ideas
Bet on data. Without customer research (and, occasionally, even with it – particularly for the cases where it is not done well, is incomplete or is for a new-to-world product which can be difficult to nuance without anything on the market to compare it to), you cannot be confident that your big bet is the next best way to grow your business. Your customers are willing participants on the product journey with you. Do not take them for granted. Ask them. Share with them. Stay engaged and connected to them.
Customers are a treasure trove of ideas to grow your business, and customer research will uncover those revenue gems. But you need to test out the ideas with your customers first. Keep the channels open so that ideas and opportunities can flow in both directions, to and from your customers.
Increase Your Bottom Line with Customer Research
Customer research is your best bet to grow your business. Here, we have presented three ways to boost your revenue via customer research. One: uncover pain points. Two: leverage customer insights for business growth. Three: test your new ideas with customers first. In summation, if you do not know how to grow your business, ask your customers!