Identifying Customer Needs: 3 Keys To Success

Identifying Customer Needs

Not identifying customer needs correctly is just like building a house on a weak foundation. Why would you knowingly do that? A good builder will consult an expert that then conducts soil surveys and engages contractors to properly set a solid foundation.

Your customers are looking for businesses that understand their requirements. They are the experts on their problems and you need to ask about these, before you develop new offerings.

Are you listening to your market?

The importance of market research cannot be underestimated. With so many new products and services failing, we need to establish a solid foundation as early as possible. Of course, poor market acceptance can happen for many different reasons.

Just look at the product development and launch cycle and you’ll see that at any of these points there are challenges: gaining customer insight, understanding the competitive landscape, design and development you products or services, channel alignment, rollout planning and execution, and promotion.

But you need to start with a sturdy foundation prior to concept development. Proper customer data mining is the key.

Voice of the Customer

It's an obvious statement to say that market research is about listening to your customers. When identifying customer needs it is very important to ask the right questions, listen, and ask more questions based on the answers. Then absorb what you hear.

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

This quote is attributed to a U.S. State Department spokesman when answering a reporter’s question at a press briefing. It nicely sums up the problem we have in getting to the root of what customers want. Some of this is because we have biases and preconceived ideas on what they need.

Asking great questions and listening carefully helps to overcome this. Identifying customer needs this way sounds simple doesn’t it? But is it? 

Keys to Identifying Customer Needs

Here are the three keys to fully know your customers and set your foundation on solid footing:

  1. How and Why – this is the wants and needs analysis. It goes well beyond asking what kind of features they’d like to see. You need to find out how they currently operate and why. Also find out how they measure success and why they do it that way. By the way, don’t confuse needs and wants – you may find out there is a need for your offering, but providing it is no guarantee you'll find demand;
  2. Core Values – the next step in customer data mining is determining what would make their life easier. The natural assumption here is that it is related to the product you are proposing, but dig deeper. Find the emotional connections that will allow you to see how your product can fit into their personal lifestyle and if selling to businesses, life within their company. You may be surprised what you discover that will help you improve your product and position it in the market;
  3. Through Your Customers’ Eyes – certainly you’ve done a competitive analysis but the best sources of information are your target customers. An understanding of the competitive landscape from the expert, your potential customer and user, is a great way to gather information on the competition. You’ll discover their strengths and weaknesses and what customers would like to change.

The importance of market research in identifying customer needs before your go to market is critical. Let your prospects and customers be your secret weapon.

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