So what are the next steps on your journey to finding out what the world sees when it looks at your business?
The first thing you should do is make sure you know who you're targeting.
I don't mean Jim from number 22, or Mabel in the corner shop. We're talking about the type of who. Do you know your target demographic? Do you have an "ideal customer avatar"? (we'll talk about that more in a future post) Are you aiming for feedback from the world at large, existing customers, or both?
If you’re reaching out to people who haven’t yet experienced what your business offers – aka potential customers - it’s a great opportunity to double-check that you’re attracting the type of customer you’re aiming your products or services at.
There’s not much point asking an octogenarian for her take on your new nightclub (although after that programme about Call-girl Grannies – which featured some octogenarians with, shall we say, interesting retirement hobbies - I may be way off the mark). Nor is there much mileage in soliciting a bored teen’s views on your chintzy tearoom.
A different approach is called for when you’re approaching existing customers, who are already fairly familiar with your business. Although there is a lot of common ground, they have baggage that potential customers don’t necessarily come with.
Their views can be skewed by other aspects of their experience – for better and for worse. Someone who’s on cloud nine after getting their hands on that shiny new gizmo they’ve been salivating over for months may be unusually glowing in their praise of your interior design. A harassed shopper rushing in to grab a last minute gift on their way home from work could see things quite differently. And a diner who was unlucky enough to meet your one very rude waiter may well have pretty jaundiced views on your new lighting design.
And of course there’s good ol' human nature - that unpleasable guest who pays for 3 star but expects 5. Unfortunately for you, they will sniff out everything there is to complain about – and air it on Trip Advisor (tip – always respond, and do it nicely. Other people notice). Their review sticks out like the proverbial against others who got exactly what they expected and were more than happy. For that same reason, their views on other aspects of the experience may call for a pinch or two of salt – although that doesn’t mean you should just disregard them.
Weigh up feedback in context. One way to do that is to give customers the opportunity to well and truly vent off about any issues that have no bearing on your visual presence. Once they’ve got it off their chest they may feel more inclined to give realistic feedback on those aspects of your business you’re really asking about. And, of course, it plants a bit of a warning flag beside their feedback, so you can choose to interpret it accordingly – particularly if it doesn’t match what you’re hearing from others.
Moving from the "who" to the "how", it's time to start thinking about the approach you'll adopt to getting feedback.
In many ways that depends on what type of business you are.
People may not live or work near your bricks-and-mortar premises. Maybe yours is an online-only business. Or perhaps they want to check you out online before committing to a two hour drive.
Whatever, you'll need to design your questions accordingly.
Next week we’ll talk about how to tackle the potentially daunting task that lies ahead. And just so you know, it involves elephants (not wildebeest).