Get to know your customers better so that you can avoid "hit or miss" marketing failures. ”Hit or Miss Marketing” is almost always a waste of time, money and other resources. It’s also very frustrating. Nevertheless, it seems to be one of the most popular forms of marketing in play today for most businesses.

Hit or Miss Marketing happens when you make assumptions about what customers truly want or need, what they value in business interactions and the worth that they ascribe not only to your products or services, but also to the brand of your business, without doing the research needed to validate your assumptions. Then you “hit” customers up with the wrong product or service (or at the wrong time or price point), change something about the customer experience in the wrong way, or make another change you think customers want.  But you “miss” the mark, because — well — they didn’t.

There’s one very simple reason that a lot of business’s marketing efforts are hit or miss: They didn’t know what their customers really wanted.

They missed the mark because they did not do the work to find out what, in fact, their customers really did want.  And it doesn’t just cost your business in missed opportunities, it can also frustrate your customers, aid your competitors and result in loss of trust from your customers, vendors and even your own employees.

And what’s more (and what’s worse), this type of failure is almost completely avoidable.

Despite the fact that there are many ways to get to know your customers, and in spite of the fact that there are so many good reasons to do so, because it provides your business with information you can use to:

  • find out what types of products and services your customers may want (now) that you are not yet providing
  • anticipate what types of products and services they will need in the future, or as a community ages
  • determine what types of interactions they would deem most satisfying
  • identify community and charitable causes they identify most with, and
  • find new ways to differentiate your business based on what your customers value,

still, many businesses aren’t taking advantage of even the most basic and easy ways they could to find out what their customers value and what they really want.

In 365 Days of Marketing I suggest many ways to get to know your customers better in order to grow your business. This morning I was thinking about why more businesses don’t do customer surveys or even ask a “question of the month” in order to begin to accumulate data that they could use to grow their businesses.

While the number one reason might be lack of time (or presumptive laziness), I surmise that one of the main reasons businesses don’t simply ask their customers for information is that they don’t want to appear intrusive. But the need to collect, analyze and utilize helpful information about your customers and your community remains if you want to grow your business, especially in the current economy.

So I came up with these low to no cost ideas that can help you obtain information about your customers and prospective customers without coming off like “a creeper,” as my son would say:

1. Don’t ask for too much. Create surveys, but make participation voluntary and answers optional.

I spend a lot of time researching marketing topics on the internet and there are no shortage of “free” white papers which can downloaded from any number of reputable businesses. But I download very few s for one simple fact: the contact information they ask for is too intrusive.

So do create online and written customer surveys to be filled out in exchange for white papers, at the point of sale, etc. But make it ok for participants to provide only the information they feel comfortable providing. Getting some hard data that you can use to help your business is better than getting no information, isn’t it?

And keep in mind that it takes time to build trust.  Build customer trust and they will trust you with more information. If you ask intrusive questions at the outset, you are likely to stop the relationship in its tracks.

2. Keep it simple and take a long term approach.

Instead of asking for a lot of information, ask a few (or even just one) question focused topically in order to provide you with specific information you have determined could be most helpful to your business. Or ask a question of the month (or quarter) and gather information over time. As noted above, this will prevent the appearance of over-intrusiveness. Plus, asking questions over time (and acting on the information you obtain) is a good way to consistently engage with customers in meaningful ways.

3. Actually use the information you obtain.

When customers are gracious enough to provide you with valuable information you can use to grow your business, improve the customer experience or add desired products or services to your menu, act on it, as quickly as possible. (After all, isn’t that the point of asking the questions?) And don’t just make changes to your business, tell customers about changes that you make based on their preferences, requests and complaints. Nothing makes your business look better to customers than the realization that you actually value their opinions!

4. Don’t ask any questions, at all.

There is information you can obtain relative to your customers and prospects based on simple geography, and what’s more, it’s free, and right at your fingertips.  As little as 15 minutes on the internet can provide you with valuable information about your community.  Sites like can provide you with demographic information about your community and surrounding areas instantly, which you can analyze and use in your short and long range planning, such as:

  • percentages of people in various age ranges (find out the median age of local residents or find out the percentage of people in your area who fall into Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennial and other generational categories)
  • the median income and cost of living for your area, and how it compares to state or national averages
  • information about the types of jobs people in your community hold
  • crime statistics
  • information about weather, air quality, earthquakes or other natural disasters
  • home values, percentage of people who own homes, rent and even how long on average they remain in their homes
  • marital status, male to female ratio, nationality and diversity statistics
  • information about community resources such as hospitals, churches, financial institutions, grocery stores and other businesses