Listen And Learn

By Mark Kakkuri

Recently I had the privilege of interviewing three women in the firearms industry who excel at marketing, and then wrote an article based on those interviews for Shooting Industry magazine. Watch for the article in the upcoming issue; it’ll be worth your time because it provides some interesting insights into what does and doesn’t work when trying to market to women. Basically their advice boiled down to this: Actually ask women what they want, what appeals to them in your products and services — how they see it. The advice is as profound as it is simple and can be summarized in one point: Listen to your customer.

When I say customer, I mean your actual, existing customers. Potential customers we’ll deal with at another time. With people who have paid good money for your product or service, you have, in essence, people who have been convinced — at least once — to trust you as a vendor or provider or manufacturer. So, find out why they decided to buy from you. I’m assuming you keep some kind of customer data that would allow you to reach out to them …If you’re not, find a way to do this. Not to spam them or annoy them with constant ads, but to extract useful information from them about your business.

Create an online survey with just a few simple questions and send it to your customers. Thank them for buying from you and ask them why they did, how the product/service met their expectations and what you could do in the future to serve them better. Leave the questions open-ended and keep it simple. It might take a long time to sift through all the comments (as opposed to collecting rankings or ratings data) but it’ll be worth it. Offer entry into a raffle for a gift card if they’ll include in the survey their name and number for you to follow up by phone to talk for just 10 minutes more. And then, as in the survey comments, listen to what the customers say. If they’re ambivalent or aren’t sure how to answer, ask them more direct questions about their opinions on a few topics: their favorite part of the shopping experience, who helped them along the way, how they found you to begin with. This kind of information is retail gold.

You know how some retailers will give you a receipt containing survey info at the bottom and ask you to fill it out? Sometimes they’ll circle the survey info with a highlighter or they’ll say it’ll be personally meaningful to them if you provide feedback. In any case, they’re on a mission to gather real data from a real, paying customer. You can follow a similar pattern or find another means to gather info, but do something to reach out and ask for feedback.

And once you have some feedback in hand, gather employees from every level of your organization and review it. The info provided by a customer may prompt an employee to share related thoughts about other customer experiences — both good and bad — you’ll also want to hear. And you do want to hear both bad and good. It’s the only way to turn the bad into good. Or, the employees may spring some new ideas about marketing or packaging or presentation or other sales points. Make sure you listen to those, too.

Have a good story about how you changed something in your business based on customer feedback? If so, send me a note and tell me about it at I’d love to listen!

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