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Ways to Understand Your Customer

Yasmin Mattox

We live in a world where products and services are constantly bombarding us. With so much messaging, it’s not a surprise that consumers tune most of it out. How can businesses know what messages are working and which ones aren’t? As a small business owner, one of the worst things that can happen to your business

Setting yourself apart from competitors doesn’t mean shouting that you’re the best or the most affordable. It means learning what your customers want, how they want to get it, and then delivering.

So it’s simple, right? Find out what customers need and offer solutions to meet them. Unfortunately, gathering and organizing that data into useful insights can be a challenge for a small business owner, especially when time and money aren’t always on your side.

Yasmin Mattox understands that very struggle. Yasmin’s expertise is in conducting psychosocial-oriented research, and she’s worked with clients in different industries across the country and abroad. We sat down with Yasmin and discussed how small business owners can get to know their target audiences better.

Q: How can small businesses understand who their target audience is?

A: Are you selling to consumers or businesses? Establishing whether you’re B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer) is one of the first steps in identifying your customer base. You need to know what the true pain points are, so you must speak to them as much as possible, but you also need to understand who your customer is, at a high level, which is why breaking down target groups based on business model is so important to how you communicate your message. It’s how you use the proper tone to send your message.

If you’re a B2B, you need to arm yourself with white papers or any materials that position you as the expert.

As a B2C company, any government websites, like the Census Bureau and Department of Labor and Statistics, are resources that offer demographic, population, and income data.

These fundamentals will help understand your target audience on a basic level.

Q: What tools can small business owners use to find out what their prospective customers are searching for online?


  • Google Search key phrases that relate to your business, products and services. It will help you understand what customers are searching for and what competitors show in the results.
  • Google Keywords is a simple tool comes with having a Google account. It identifies what keywords are searched for in any specific area and how often. It also recommends similar search terms so you can build out a list of phrases to use.
  • Google Trends is another tool included in your Google account. It deciphers which search terms perform better than others.

From there, you can shape your strategies based on what people are searching for the most.

Q: How can small businesses organize the data they’re finding so it can be useful for their business?

A: You may have established who your customers are and what they’re searching for, but now it’s time to organize that data into what will yield customer retention. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system collects data about your customers and their behavior, giving you information to position yourself for successful interactions.

Q: Are there alternatives to a “fancy” CRM system?

A: The alternative to CRM systems is often straightforward: Have some tabling software, such as Excel, to organize info you obtain from talking to your customers directly. Engage them as people, as ends and not just means to your end, and they’ll likely talk back. Also, stay on top of your contact information and implement anonymous survey forms to receive helpful feedback.

Survey Monkey is a great tool for this. So is Airtable. Google Forms can also be great for conducting surveys. Each allows businesses to conduct satisfaction surveys, collect leads, run market research and receive the overall insight you need to understand your customers.

Q: I might not have the time or budget for research. What are affordable ways can they conduct secondary research?


  • Stop working. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a business owner is not allocating time for marketing beyond your computer. Networking helps establish relationships within the community and could lock in customers with a higher retention rate.
  • Find “your people.” Find a combination of individuals who are in the same boat as you. If you’re a woman-owned business, the Women Founders Community and Women Founders Unite are ideal places to gain support, advice and guidance from other successful female founders. There are many organizations out there with the same objective. Locally, ROC Growth is a warm, engaged and energetic community that includes many entrepreneurs and people oriented to growth in the region.
  • Show your support. Sponsoring events and even joining business pitch competitions are great ways to get your name out there and build recognition in the community.
  • Connect back. Don’t waste any more valuable time and money using shot-in-the-dark methods. You may not have a team dedicated to market research, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make strategic, data-based marketing decisions. There are tons of resources out there waiting to connect you with your customers.

Have a burning research or small business question for Yasmin?

You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter!