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How To Know Your Customer: 5 Proven Ways to Better Understand Your Audience

It was so great to hear Marcos Mafia, co-founder of Mafia Bags, talk about how making customers happy was one of the most rewarding parts of his startup journey (check out the full interview here). And it reminded me of just how important the customer is to getting your business model right – whether it’s purpose-driven or not.

It also made me think about one of the best tools I’ve ever seen a startup founder create when it comes to better understanding the target audience for your product: a custom Wiki complete with a detailed customer profile.

And when I say detailed, I MEAN DETAILED. The target audience description included everything from average age, geographic location, how they spent their day, favorite social media channels, what they purchased and when…and that’s just for starters. It was definitely one of the best business tools I’ve ever seen – yet so many rarely do it.
 
So in the hopes that you might be inspired to create your own customer profile Wiki to share with your team, following are five proven ways to get to know your customer better:
 
1. Focus groups or in-person events

This is definitely the number one way to better understand your audience. And if you think the term ‘focus group’ sounds too serious, maybe try holding a special pre-launch or VIP event and be prepared to get feedback, either firsthand or with an in-person survey.
 
Not sure about the kind of feedback you need? Try having a look at some of these Customer Empathy and Journey Blank Canvas templates, which will be useful to fill in once you’ve collected and organized all of your customer’s answers.
 
And just because I also work in PR, I need to point out that knowing which websites, publications, bloggers/influencers and social media channels your customers visit and trust the most is also very helpful when planning your communications strategy – so don’t forget to include these questions in the discussion or in-person survey!
 
2. User interviews

Especially if you’re selling a product, conducting user interviews so customers can give you specific feedback regarding their experience is a must.
 
Emmett Shear is probably the best person to tell you more about his own personal experience and how it’s done, so check out his How to Run a User Interview from the How to Start a Startup YouTube channel (also highly recommended).
 
3. Online surveys

No, I’m not going to talk to you about stuff you’ve probably already heard about or experienced using MailChimp (although they are a good option for sending your subscribers online surveys).
 
Instead I’m going to talk to you about Klaviyo, email software that, according to their website, “builds a robust customer profile for every shopper so you can target your communications based on anything, web, email or purchase behavior.” Basically meaning that you’re able to have much more targeted, personalized conversations with your customers – so their feedback will be more meaningful, and you’ll get to know their likes/dislikes even better.
 
And if you’re running an ecommerce site, try linking your Klaviyo account with your Shopify so it can analyze customer purchase habits and report back to you with all the metrics you need to help increase sales. Oh, and these guys practice what they preach – THEIR customer service is great!
 
4. Social media conversations

I feel like businesses usually forget that the whole point of social media is to have a two-way-conversation with your target audience.
 
Think about which channels you’re using – whether it’s LinkedIn, Medium, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Snapchat – and how you can engage customers and get feedback. Your approach will need to be customized for each channel. For instance, live Q&As probably work best on Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter – just remember to give your followers a heads up!
 
And before you decide to initiate your social media plan, make sure you’re prepared to monitor the conversations once they start. While I’m sure you’ll get some insightful, positive feedback, you may also need to address negative issues that you hadn’t thought of before.
 
5. Secondary research

Second-hand market research is at the bottom of my list for a reason – it’s not my number one recommendation, but hey, it’s better than nothing, especially if you don’t already have a solid understanding of general consumer sentiment and statistics.
 
There are obviously MANY resources that can provide you with a general market analysis on certain trends, age groups, locations, etc. So the best starting point might be this article I sourced from Entrepreneur which provides a more detailed list.

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