You need to understand not only who your customers are, but what they want.  Why are they coming to you in the first place?  How can you keep them coming back for more?   Your customers are the lifeblood of your business.  If you don’t have any customers (or a targeted audience) then you really don’t have a business.  Well, you have a nice hobby.

Marketing expert Paul Shoemaker (www.inc.com) says that you should know what the customers want before they do. Many entrepreneurs presume that finding what their target audience wants is complex and expensive.  It doesn’t have to be.  For start-ups, here are a few ideas for developing marketing strategies on a tight budget.know your customer

Hitting the Right Target

 I thought that my blog catered specifically to mothers interested in creating a business at home while caring for their families.  I was shocked that 60% of my audience was male!  So I was at a crossroads:  I could retool and concentrate on attracting my original target audience, or find ways to address the wants of both groups. The following are methods the customers’ entrepreneur first imagined and more.

Just Ask

Luckily marketing research is finding that elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford.

Host a Gathering

Grab a few friends and take them to lunch or have them over to your house.  Ask them to be your customers and get some ideas on what your target customer wants.  Your own personal think tank!

Conduct a Formal Study

If time and personnel are available, a more formal study is useful.  This information may not only be crafted for your business needs but shared with other entrepreneurs in the industry. The research should facilitate an understanding of user profiles (the characteristics of the target audience) and of how audience members behave when using the site.

Think about the logistics of the study:

-Schedule enough time for research sessions to include pilot sessions and participant briefings.

-Choose a well-appointed and comfortable location where you will conduct the research.

-Provide beverages and snacks.

-Decide how to compensate study participants with cash or gift certificates.

-Consent forms.   Draft an agreement that protects everyone legally.  The purpose of the study should be made clear,  particularly any dissemination of the information gathered from the study.

Other Affordable Analytics know your customer

Google Analytics. Free web analytics are great for start-up sites, non-profits groups, blogs, etc. They can provide you with the basic information you need to start generating traffic, and hopefully converting that traffic into revenue. Nicholas Dragon­  recommends free software.­­­­

Google Analytics has become synonymous with free web analytics and is likely the first service that springs to mind when you first read web analytics.  This package is surprisingly comprehensive for a free service.

Google Analytics allows you to track page views, visitor information, and conversion rates. You can also set goals that can help interpret data by comparing several factors at once.

Adding Google Analytics to your site is easy too. All you have to do is place a short piece of Java Script on each page you want to monitor.

ClickTale   The free version of ClickTale offers several useful features and includes tracking 400 page views per month on one domain. This solution is more for visually minded individuals who prefer to look at pictures more than sheets of numbers. ClickTale offers the unique ability to record and watch a visitor’s path. ClickTale is a hosted service. You don’t have to install anything on your server. Other analytical tools can be used at the same time without causing any conflict.

Piwik is defined as an open source (GPL licensed), PHP MySQL web analytics software.   With web-based tools, the company gathering the information may own that information and simply shares it with you as long as you are a client. You own the information. The web developer is also able to customize information about site visitors’ behaviors.

StatCounter uses a combination of log analysis and cookies to gather information on returning visitors, first time visitors, unique visitors, page views, etc. Because these two methods are used together, the accuracy of visitor information is better. To make this information even more accurate, StatCounter tracks browsers instead of server requests. This may make the visit count appear lower, but it provides more realistic visit stats. Dragon considers StatCounter to be great for low traffic sites and start-ups.

I Need Help:  When to Invest in a Consultant  

Although consultants can be expensive, Ralph Wilson believes the payback for most small businesses will be 10-fold to 50-fold or more on their investment.   Marketing consultants should do the following things for you:

  1. Study your data regularly over a period of many months,
  2. Make recommendations for how to improve your site and online sales,
  3. Design and implement tests that can determine whether these hypotheses are accurate, and then perhaps implement the changes on your website, if you don’t already have a web designer or webmaster who can do that for you.

Competent consultants who offer their services to small businesses can be found on sites for The Digital Analytics Association and Google Analytics Authorized Consultants.

Do you know your customer?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you’ve done to stay in tunes with the needs of your target audience.   Thanks for sharing!

Keep on celebrating!

 

 

 

 

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