Five ways a small business can collect valuable customer data for FREE

Customer feedback is FREE research.  Are you collecting it?

small business data chart

I spent a lot of my marketing career conducting expensive marketing research and I loved it.  What I loved most was how the client would always be surprised by some finding.  They didn’t expect their customers to react a certain way or to be critical of their products or communications.  Yet, there it was.

Over time, clients tend to lose perspective of their customers. They don’t mean to.  They think they’re in touch.   But the truth is one get’s into a habit and forgets that customers’ attitudes and needs change over time.  Sometime a lot.  Which is why, smart business owners keep their fingers on the pulse of their customers and their markets.

So, how can you collect customer service, new product/service, etc. information without spending a fortune?

1.  The easy way is to just ASK!   As a small business, you have daily opportunities to tap into what your customers like, dislike, want, need and to do so informally.  Make your inquiries conversational and they will happily tell you, probably a lot more than you imagine.  Most importantly, they will be flattered you asked for their opinion and such conversations go a long way to build loyal customers.  NOTE:  be aware that you can’t take the comments of one customer and pretend that is ‘research’.  That’s just one customer’s opinion.  You need to ask a variety of customers.  The more the better to identify any patterns or differences across age, gender, etc. Ideally, you want as many customers as possible,but no fewer than 50.

2.  If you have an immediate need for answers, collect customer feedback more formally.  Through your email marketing, you can use poll and various online survey services.  Perhaps you email service provider offers this capability or you can input a link to SurveyMonkey into your email newsletter and get results that way. Or you could print up some short surveys and have them available in your establishment for customers to complete in return for a special discount or a small gift.  Keep the survey short and focused on your primary concerns.

3.  Another FREE research channel is to use your social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.  Tap into your community of followers, fans and connections and ask your questions.  You already trust these people as they do you or they wouldn’t be part of your community.  They will be happy to share their opinions with you.

4.  Direct customer feedback can also be captured through your online business listings with Google, Bing, Yahoo, CitySearch, Yelp and the like.  Take a look at the customer review comments you’ve receive.  Categorize them into buckets  (e.g. price related, service related, performance, etc.).  Analyze the results and see what it tells you. Yes, it would be nice to collect the opinions of those who didn’t comment so you could compare the two groups, but people who aren’t satisfied tend not to bother making comments, unless they are really disappointed.  Take what you have and recognize it is probably biased to those who already like your business.

5.  Add a poll to your web or blog site.  Again, use one of the other survey tools out there to add this feature to your web or blog site.  But don’t forget about the poll. Monitor the poll monthly.  You may see spikes in complaints or fewer positive comments.  This is a good warning that something requires your attention and quickly.

There you are.  Five quick and easy ways to conduct your own marketing research among your customers for FREE.

So, start asking!

Share any customer feedback you received that made a difference in your small business in the comments section below


Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - LinkedIn - Google Plus

Then join thousands of other Marketing Action Takers!

Receive Free weekly updates, tips and techniques to grow your business.  Fill in the information below and look for Marketing Action in your inbox.

Posted in Marketing Lessons, Marketing Reserch, Small Business and tagged , , , , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *