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Knowing Your Customer Is The Key

Without doubt, understanding what a customer's wants and needs are is one of the most important aspects of running a business. You must know your customer. For the most part your customer will buy on emotion, especially for products or services that are not a necessity and where there are a number of suppliers for the same item. Understanding and defining why your customer shops the way they do is your key to success.

There may be a number of factors that are common amongst your target audience for your business service or product. By researching and finding out what these are, you will be able to see what areas you can focus on where there is a need, and what areas will not interest them. Write down what your ideal customer will looks like, behaves like and wants from you. Seeing your business through their eyes will help to highlight your strengths and any weaknesses you might have.

Where can I find information about my customer?

There are a number of resources that you can access at LITTLE OR NO COST to you, that can help provide accurate impressions on your customer and their buying habits. Also, these resources will help you define and research potential markets that you had not yet considered for your business.

Firstly, research and access all the SECONDARY data that you can. Secondary data is data that has been gathered by someone else for a different and specific purpose. Often, this data contains information that you can utilize and apply to your own needs. For example, the research may relate to how people spend their money in the home, and you may want to know what people and how much they spend on tools for the shed. This secondary data could well provide the information on the amount they will spend, where they will shop and why, and what type of customer will do the shopping.

Places and Sites that you can visit to begin gathering secondary data:

* Ibis World (http://www.ibisworld.com/) - The IBISWorld US Industry Reports provide you with immediate access to vital information on 100's of industries. They are continually adding more industries to eventually cover the entire economy in depth.

* LibrarySpot.com (http://www.libraryspot.com/) - a free virtual library resource center for educators and students, librarians and their patrons, families, businesses and just about anyone exploring the Web for valuable research information.

* Internet Public Library (http://www.ipl.org/) - The Internet Public Library (IPL), is a public service organization and learning/teaching environment full of information and resources to help educate you.

* US Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/) - The Census Bureau serves as the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy, providing the best mix of timeliness, relevancy, quality, and cost for the data they collect and services they provide.

Having gathered any secondary data available, you might find that you still need some information relating to your customer and niche market. The best way to do this is to gather what is called PRIMARY data ? information that you gather for your own purposes. There are a number of ways that you can do this. For example, you might choose to call people out of the phone book and ask them to complete a survey over the phone. You also might choose to go to the local shopping complex and interview people you meet. This second idea is very useful if your product is something that is already sold through retail outlets, as you can talk direct to customers that could become your customer in the future!

If you have never written a survey before, visit the site below as a great starting point:

* How to Write a Good Survey http://www.accesscable.net/~infopoll/tips.htm - this site has a description of each step in writing a survey, and some useful links and further articles about the gathering of information by using surveys.

Don't be afraid of gathering your own information - it can prove to be an invaluable exercise. Not only do you gain a more complete understanding of the needs of your customer, but you increase your own knowledge and understanding of the marketplace. This places you in a better situation when building and expanding your business.

Matthew Tibble operates http://www.BusinessPlanningMadeEasy.com, a site dedicated to business owners to help them achieve their business goals. A combination of sales and marketing experience over the past 9 years & a strong passion to help small businesses improve their success has led to the development of business and marketing planning services. Please visit http://www.businessplanningmadeeasy.com or email info@businessplanningmadeeasy.com.

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