BUSINESS TIPS: Listening is key for successful business

There is one very valuable tool available to small businesses and it is so simple….

— There is one very valuable tool available to small businesses and it is so simple.

It requires no fancy software, and for the most part, very little, if any money. Sometimes all small businesses need to do is listen.

Customers can be a great business resource because they are the audience that companies are targeting with their marketing campaigns.

Yet many small business owners forget this as they focus on business planning and formulas. These are very important and necessary to the success of small businesses, but they can distance owners too far from who they want to target.

Marketing is one area in which consumer preferences, habits and opinions are heavily relied upon. This is as it should be.

The success of a marketing campaign is based on the extent to which the promotion hits home with consumers and compels them to act. Therefore, every good marketing campaign needs to be researched properly.

Small businesses should consider market research strategies, such as focus groups, access to consumer research and software that allows them to track the buying behavior of customers.

Determining the products to promote relies on data about consumer spending habits.

Customer loyalty programs can be an easy way to track what an individual consumer will purchase. Small business owners can then tailor promotions and discounts to fuel customer retention and existing customers.

Market research can also help small businesses determine the type of marketing that will work best for them. Are your customers interested in luxury items? Do they want discounts? Are they concentrated in a certain demographic?

Another area in which listening to customers is crucial is customer support. Customer service can be frustrating to many consumers.

So, companies that can make the process as simple as possible will likely see results in sales and retention.

While resolving problems is integral to the success of a small business, those that want to stand out should also consider investing in proactive customer support measures. Customer surveys and feedback direct mailings can provide valuable information about how the business is meeting the needs of its customers. Many small businesses provide frequently asked question pages on their websites and customer forums to decrease the amount of customer support issues.

Listening to your customers and clients will affect the bottom line. They are the ones purchasing from your small business.

The companies that take the time to identify, respond to and meet the needs of their customers should be well positioned for success.

“Business Tips” was written by Paul Howard, Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Adviser IV of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. Contact him at

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