Think back to the last time you had a conversation with a complete stranger. I’d bet all the janglies in my pocket that that conversation was rather surface-level. Names, area of town where you live, family, maybe what you do for a living.
Now think about the last time you had a conversation with a good friend. That chat would have looked quite different. Inside jokes, stories about mutual friends, maybe some deeper insight into how you’re feeling.
To connect with someone, you have to know them. And that holds true whether you’re talking about two individuals or a brand and its customers.
But as anyone who’s tried to really understand their customers could tell you, it’s much easier said than done.
An easy place to start is with your Google Analytics. If you have this set up, you can see certain data about your website visitors like ages, genders, and locations. You can get similar data from your social media analytics, like Instagram and Pinterest.
But just like a conversation with a stranger, this data is all very surface-level. And if you get bot traffic (which we all do), those stats may not even be entirely accurate.
There’s also some pricey software that can help glean insights into your customers. But if you’re on a budget, try some of the following methods. All they cost is a bit of your time, and they can help you get closer to understanding your customers’ needs.
1. Add a Search Bar to Your Website
I’m a big fan of the website search bar. It makes navigating your site significantly easier for the customer, which is likely to improve their overall browsing experience.
But it has an added bonus. If you have a search bar, you can track what your site visitors are searching for. This can help you in two ways. First, it shows you what information may be hard to find on your website. If you get lots of searches for “contact” in your search bar, then your site visitors are having trouble finding your contact information.
Second, it helps you suss out what type of information your customers and potential customers are interested in. Perhaps you own a boutique hotel, and you get frequent searches for the term “restaurant.” As a small operation, you don’t have an onsite restaurant. But based on this search, you can determine that dining is an important consideration for your guests. Perhaps a blog post listing the best restaurants within walking distance of your hotel will both answer that question and be a selling point for potential guests looking to book.
The steps for adding a search bar to your site will depend on your website platform. Do a quick search for “[web builder] search bar” to find a tutorial. Then, you have to integrate your search bar with your Google Analytics so you can get a report of the search terms.
Use this step-by-step guide by digital marketer Phil Isherwood to help you. (It’s the same one I used when I did this on my website).
2. Analyze Reviews & Testimonials
I firmly believe that all hospitality businesses should be paying close attention to their reviews and testimonials, and should be responding to each.
But you can learn more from your reviews than “the host is rude” or “the dining room is loud.” That’s about you. What does the review say about them?
Do you see a large number of special occasions mentioned in your reviews? Maybe your customers see your restaurant as a go-to place for a celebration. Do you rarely see mentions of the sports arena in your city in your reviews? Okay, so maybe your customers don’t include sports enthusiasts.
Creating a chart to help you track trends could be a big help. Note down the number of times you see certain mentions to see if they’re one-offs or indicate a larger pattern.
You could even do a little reviewer espionage. Each reviewer on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp has a profile, where you can read all of their reviews. See where else your customers are staying or dining—if anywhere.
For example: If you see lots of reviews from brand new accounts with no review history, maybe your customers are often first-time travelers and need a little more guidance through the booking process, or would appreciate an FAQ.
3. Conduct Polls & Surveys
Polls and surveys are excellent tools for getting answers to specific questions.
You could conduct these on social media. But if you do, it’s likely that you’ll get responses from people who follow you but are not actually your customers.
A better choice is usually to send a poll out by email to a segment of your list that only includes past purchasers or customers. Ideally, this poll would go out automatically a day or two after a reservation or purchase to keep your data fresh.
You could ask questions like:
- How did you hear about us? (to figure out where your customers hang out)
- How often do you travel/dine out/plan large events? (to determine if your customers are occasional or frequent users of your type of service)
- How many people are in your household, and what ages? (to figure out how many single people/couples/families are in your customer base)
- Do you travel more often for business or leisure?
To increase your response rate, you may want to offer some kind of incentive. You could enter everyone who completes the survey in a monthly drawing for a gift certificate.
4. Customer Interviews
This is the most hands-on tactic here, but it’s also the most valuable.
A survey or poll doesn’t have the open-endedness to really dig into a customer’s motivation or mindset. But when you get them on the phone, you can let the conversation flow. You never know what you’ll turn up!
In some industries, this is easy. It’s common to have a call with a potential client when you’re in the events business. In others, this can be harder. Restaurant and hotel guests don’t expect to get a call from the establishment after their experience.
But just like the surveys, you could provide an incentive to get people on the phone with you. Offer them a voucher or discount on their next visit in exchange for 20 minutes of honest feedback.
Know Your People
When you already understand your customer’s needs, you can continue a conversation already in progress. No need for the small talk—jump right in with inside jokes!
That means you (or your copywriter) can communicate more effectively with your people for better connections and a higher sales volume.
Got some great data that needs to be spun into compelling copy? Drop me a note and let’s talk about it!