The Top 5 Customer Research Mistakes I See Female Entrepreneurs Make
After years spent in the corporate world helping businesses unlock their potential for success through better understanding their audiences there’s one thing that I can’t stand seeing – ineffective customer research.
Researching your audience is one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your business to dizzy new heights.
However, customer research mistakes are all too common. Most people don’t realise that there are some very specific elements to gaining those kinds of ‘aha-moment’, business-changing insights.
It really is the case that spending a little bit of time upfront thinking about why and how to do your own customer research will pay dividends in quick and effective decisions later.
1. Not having clear decisions that they need to make driving the research
One of the big customer research mistakes that I see is that people don’t have a clear goal for their research. In some of the business groups I am in for female entrepreneurs I see this mistake far too often.
A question pops into their head and then they start asking people what their answer to that question would be. Or they ask vague questions and unsurprisingly get vague answers in response.
It’s really important that your desire to do research comes from fork-in-the-road moments in your business.
You need to start with a decision that you’re struggling to make and then think carefully about what you would need to know about your audience to help you make an informed decision.
What could you ask to better understand how to serve your audience through the decision you need to make?
2. Not asking the right people
I have to admit this customer research mistake drives me bananas! Even right back at the beginning of my business, this is one of the first YouTube videos I ever did because it still blows my mind how many entrepreneurs ask general questions to a wide group of people and expect to get high-quality insights.
For example, my audience at the broadest level is women business owners – but I know that not all women business owners are the same nor are they all my target audience.
So if I just asked any woman business owner a question like ‘what are the biggest frustrations in your business’ I’m opening myself up to a lot of answers that aren’t relevant to my specific audience and therefore business.
So you need to get in front of your dream customers and ask them because they are the people you want to appeal to and ultimately do business with.
3. Asking closed questions
This isn’t always a customer research mistake but asking closed questions does need to be a conscious decision. The reason for this is because closed questions don’t give you the insight that lies behinds the response, you’re just giving people set answers they can respond with – like yes or no.
So for example, if you asked 5 people whether they would use a membership site if you launched one – you might get three people tell you no, and 2 people tell you yes.
So you decide not to pursue a membership model after all as most people said no. But what you might discover is that by asking a broader or ‘open’ question like ‘what are your thoughts on membership sites?’ you reach a different conclusion.
By asking the open question above you may discover information that could help you better design a membership or work out more specifically which of your customers it would be right for.
For example if you asked the open question about memberships to the same 3 people that would have said no to the closed question, you may discover that one of them has never used a membership so doesn’t have a strong view, one of them isn’t clear on how your product or service would translate into a membership model and another might be worried about committing their finances to a 12-month contract.
So in reality, if you created a membership that clearly linked to the value of what you already do and had a rolling monthly contract you might have been talking to 5 very keen future customers!
4. Not using the right method for the type of information they want
There are different ways of doing customer research and which method you choose should come down to what you need to know, not how much money is in your bank account!
There are lots of free or low-cost tools that allow you to quickly and easily put together surveys which you can then share on social media or email to your audience – and these are great for small insights.
However, if you’re trying to make big decisions you’re not going to get a very deep understanding of what your customers want from what they are willing to type into a tiny box or select from 3 predefined options!
If you want to be able to make broad generalisations across your audience like “how many hours of Netflix do you watch a week?” then surveys could work well.
This would allow you to say ‘60% of my audience watch 4 or more hours of Netflix a week’ so maybe that’s a useful reference point in your social media for example – but it’s not going to reveal the reasons or emotions behind their responses.
The only way to really understand why people make certain decisions or act a certain a way is to ask them about it and let them use their own words to explain what thoughts and feelings they have in relation to the topic you want to explore. Building on the point above, surveys are great for closed questions but interviews, e.g. getting someone on a phone call, are best for open questions. Yes, it takes more effort but you’ll get deeper insights like what are they choosing not to do in order to watch Netflix!
Therefore to avoid this customer research mistake you have to make sure you are using the correct research methods and tools for the info you are looking for.
5. Not filtering responses against their own business goals and vision
You started your business because you had a vision for what you could create and the impact it could have on the world. Don’t allow yourself to get pulled in different directions along your journey to success.
So often I see people trying to shortcut their own decision-making process by just trying to get someone else to tell them what to do – whether that’s friends, family or even their own customers.
That’s right, I don’t believe even your customers can tell you what to do! For the simple reason that your job is to tell them how to solve their problems.
Hopefully, you started your business because you have the knowledge or skill that your customers lack in order to get the result that they want. So it stands to reason that they are unlikely to be best placed to come up with the solution that they really need.
Instead, you need to ask questions that get you closer to understanding the result they want to see and the hurdles they need to overcome for you to come up with the solution that’s going to be right for them.
Time for one of my favourite quotes, from Henry Ford who made owning an automobile practical and affordable for millions of people for whom previously it wouldn’t have been an option.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
So there you have my top 5 customer research mistakes entrepreneurs make when doing their own customer research. Have you got caught out by any of these in the past? Let me know in the comments!
If you’d like to learn how you can improve your customer research skills then check out my Love Your Marketing Membership.