There’s an old quote: “People who want milk shouldn’t sit on a stool in the middle of a field, in the hope that a cow will reverse up to them”.

Instead of metaphorically spreading out your wares on a table, shouting “Roll up, roll up!” and hoping someone will walk up and buy, it’s wise to work out what people want and then offer it to them.

For years businesses have talked about ‘customer focus’ and ‘user-friendliness’. The starting point has to be THEM not YOU. So here are five simple tasks you can perform, to help put yourself in your customer’s shoes:

1. Go through your invoices for the past 12 months, and group your clients into types. For example, mine might include marketing managers, web designers and startups. Then sort them into order of profitability. For me, the lifetime value of one introducer can be worth far more than a one-off client. Then target more of the same.

It’s wise to do this exercise regularly, as things change fast these days and the outcome may not be what you expect.

2. Use the free Google keyword tool and type in the keyword/s that you think your customers use to find your site. The results will show you how many times that phrase is searched, and how high, medium or low the competition is. Scroll down the list to get ideas for new SEO opportunities such as landing pages or blog post titles.

3. Check your free Google analytics to find out what’s working and what’s not on your site. See your entry and exit pages, the bounce rate (aim for under 30%) and how long visitors stay. Check where in the world they are and find out what keywords they search to find you. Remember, there is no point in doing this unless you make changes accordingly.

4. Use social media for free research and development. For example, Zappos might ask their followers what colour shoes they want next season. If their customers say ‘red please’, there’s no point in the business investing time and money creating a range of brown shoes. Similarly, Starbucks runs the highly effective ‘My Starbucks Idea’ campaign.

5. Ask for professional help! It should be easy to write about what you do – after all, you do it for 8 (or 10, or 15) hours a day! But it’s not so easy to write in a way that represents your unique offering, stands out from the competition, and includes the triggers that will make your customer take action. Note that part of the role of a copywriter is to translate your messages into customer language that ultimately makes a difference to your bottom line.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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