Eric Holtzclaw: Five tips on how to get to know your customers better

A common problem for businesses today is that they don’t know their customers as well as they should. Many erroneously believe that it’s too hard or too expensive to understand what their customers want. They try to use shortcuts like relying on survey data or demographics in a feeble attempt to fill their knowledge gaps.

Here are five tips that demonstrate that it’s easier than you think to get to know your customers: 

Tip 1: Talk to your customers

This seems incredibly obvious, but so many companies have never done this. They assume they know who their customers are without actually having a conversation with any of them. These unconfirmed assumptions lead companies to develop products, services or marketing messages that miss the mark. 

The secret: You don’t need to talk to all your customers to start seeing important patterns that drive their decision to work with you or choose your competitor. 

Tip 2: Don’t just talk about yourself

Companies that do talk to their customers may start too narrow and begin with the product, service or market message they want to learn about. Start the conversation broadly. Find out how your company’s products or services fit within the customer’s everyday life. Understand the likelihood you will dramatically impact or change their behavior is slim, so you must instead figure out how to fit within their current needs. 

Tip 3: Go to them

To truly understand your customer, it’s important to get into their personal space. This lets you compare what your customer tells you with what you see in their surroundings. Your customers may present themselves publicly as organized and together. Once you get into their space, you realize they don’t have everything as under control as they would like you to think. 

Tip 4: It’s never really about money

Customers love to use money as an excuse — they will say things like, “If it were cheaper” or “If I were making more money.”

A decision to modify your pricing should only be made after you truly understand what your customer cares about as it relates to what you offer. If your customers want your product or service bad enough, they will be willing to pay your price. 

Tip 5: Provide a way to maintain
the relationship

You will find that some of your customers are fine with seeing your company as merely a place where they spend their money. But others want and respond best to a two-way relationship. This is especially important to understand if you include social media as part of your plan. 

Your interactions should be give-and-take. Use the clues you see in your customers’ profile and other social media shares to determine how you should respond. A customer who shares often and affirms others is looking for affirmation from your company as well. Ignoring an individual’s core need for affirmation will ultimately cause irreversible brand damage. ●

Eric Holtzclaw is the founder and CEO of Laddering Works and a sought-after consultant on consumer behavior and entrepreneurship. He has spent the last decade running a research firm that specializes in unlocking product and service potential for Fortune 500 and other companies. He has just published “Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior.” For more information, visit

Twitter: @eholtzclaw