Understanding customer needs and wants is mission-critical for marketers and businesses alike if they plan on achieving long-lasting success. After all, we all want to attract, convert, and retain customers — but we can’t do that unless we truly know them and what they need.
From developing a new product feature to releasing a whitepaper, your business decisions should be driven by the needs and wants of customers.
That said, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to cut through all of the noise and understand your customers’ expectations. Too often companies feel confident they know what their customer needs, only to plan a product launch, jumpstart a marketing campaign, or release new content that falls flat.
To avoid falling into that trap, you have to ask yourself – how can you better understand the needs of your customers?
Understanding Customer Needs
Getting to know your customer’s needs is easier said than done. But never fear, there are some surefire ways to understand your customers, what they need from you, what their expectations and requirements are, and how you can best deliver on those needs. Three of our favorites? Focus groups, social listening and keyword research.
1. Focus Groups
It may seem obvious, but one of the best tactics in understanding customer needs and wants is to talk directly to your audience. With so much data available through digital channels, it’s easy to forget that the best way to know your customers is to connect with them directly.
The goal of a focus group is to foster an open and honest dialogue with your customers. Through focus groups, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of how your customers respond to your business, your product, and the solutions you provide. While popular culture often portrays the political focus group, focus groups are a powerful tool for marketers in all fields and industries.
A focus group featured on the TV show, VEEP.
If you can’t get current and prospective customers in a room for a focus group, think outside of the box.
For example, you can send online surveys to gain feedback. There are a myriad of online survey tools available to solicit feedback from prospects and clients. SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo are two popular and easy to use survey tools.
If you are working with a limited budget, Google Forms is a free alternative that offers basic survey functionality.
2. Social Listening
Social media has shifted the dynamic between customers and brands. Thanks to social media, customers now have the power to engage in a two-way dialogue with brands and make more informed buying decisions.
A recent Neilson poll shows that over 80% of people seek recommendations before making a purchase of any kind – often by reaching out to their social media networks. Brands can leverage social media to understand customer needs and discover what their customers are looking for in a product.
Keeping up with how your customers post on social media about your business, your product or your industry is a great way to get to know your customer’s needs and how you can best serve them. Additionally, social listening will reveal your customers’ expectations as well as how you are delivering on those expectations.
Be prepared: with so much noise from social channels, it is helpful to have a social listening tool to gain insight. For example, many marketers use Hootsuite to monitor conversations across various social networks.
3. Keyword Research
Keyword research can also give you valuable insight into what your customer needs from you, your business and your product. If you know how your customers are searching online and more importantly how they are searching for your company and industry, you can determine what they’re looking for. Once you’ve done your research, you can channel it into creating a product or service that better aligns with those needs.
For example, when P.C. Richard & Son discovered customers searching for their product weren’t looking for a “Barbecue Grill” but a “Gas Grill,” they updated their content to match the voice of their customer. From there, customers looking to cookout could find an awesome gas grill for more easily on Google. And P.C. Richard & Son? They doubled their online sales.
Keyword research and analysis allowed P.C. Richard & Son to identify customer needs that weren’t being met by their product and adjust their marketing.
While there are a lot of ways to conduct keyword research, a new free option is our SEO Chrome Extension. It helps you uncover search metrics for relevant new keywords directly on any page your are viewing or search new topics directly in your browser, powered by Explorer. The extension makes it easy to better understand the needs and wants of your customers and to channel it into your marketing strategy.