On Business

Are you asking your customers the right questions?

EPSON scanner imageAre you relevant? Is your product or service relevant? If you are trying to increase sales of a product you might have asked yourself these (or similar) questions. While relevance is in the top 5 most overused words of the last 5 years, it still applies to our businesses today. If your product or service is relevant to people they will buy it. It’s just another way of saying your product or service is of value to people. But words like value, relevance, proposition, niche, etc often get lost in the rubble of disassociation.

Before you run away and think this is going to be a rant, it’s not. I’m just coming to grips with the fact that I have misunderstood how these words matter to my business for the last 3 years.

How to be relevant?

It’s really simple, answer questions people are asking. It’s not about making a product look relevant, or hanging out with the right crowd. It’s simply responding with answers your customers actually care about. More often than not I’ve tried to hypothesize the kinds of questions our customers might be asking, and then answered those. It’s the shotgun approach. Sure, there’s the chance I might have nailed it, and the product offering is exactly what our target market needed. But it is way more likely that I just missed an opportunity to answer their actual questions by not asking them first.

It’s so obvious when you think about it. Google, not the ‘coolest’ of companies has remained relevant. Because their entire mandate is to “solve search”. Help people get the answer to the question they actually asked. Tech companies are not so dissimilar to music bands. You know the companies with the one hit wonders. They work hard and eventually they get a lucky break and make it big. But despite the press they never seem to be able to repeat their past glory. It’s because they are doing the shotgun approach.

So if you want to be relevant, to create products that answer questions people actually want answering, stop trying to fit in and start asking the right questions. Start talking to your customers. Ask them questions, like what do you think of our product? Is is doing what you need? Why do you like that feature? Why did you originally spend money on our product? Or what do you think of the competitions product? (I know what you are thinking… I don’t even have the guts to ask that question, but imagine the truths it might hold)

These kinds of questions help to steer you in the right direction. When you find that overwhelming common denominator in your target market saying, these are the things I actually care about, or if it your product did this ____ I would be overjoyed. That’s it, you found your relevance, now go out there and do it. Now it’s your turn, let me know what you think is the best way to find out what customers are actually asking for. Or if you’ve had any luck with a different approach, let me know what it is.

By Jonathan Whiting

I enjoy sharing what I am learning and hopefully it's of interest and help to you. I live in Canada with my wife. Follow me on Twitter.

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