Tools to Help Small Businesses Understand Their Customers

Business.com / Business Intelligence / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The value that tech tools have cannot be understated when understanding customers

How many software solutions, Web applications, or plug-ins do you sign into daily to run your small business? The answer is probably more than you think.

My guess is that you use a minimum of five tools regularly, without even thinking twice. And that’s the beauty of technology. In the tech-driven world, there’s an available solution to enhance nearly every process in a small business, including accounting, project management, payroll, customer support, document management, and, of course, marketing and sales. Small businesses today have the advantage of growing their sales and managing their operations much more resourcefully than they did just a decade ago, thanks to the free and affordable tools that augment necessary day-to-day tasks.

Tech tools not only save time and eliminate manual processes, they capture a lot of valuable information that can – and should – be used to attract and retain customers.

When it comes to marketing, customer preferences, behaviors, and overall sentiment can be easily captured through the tools companies are already using to engage their audiences. You’ve likely read articles or noticed first-hand personalization tactics backed by these insights – such as emails on your birthday, product suggestions when you return to a website, or display ads relevant to your search history. That’s because such personalization works. Armed with the right data, companies can easily give customers exactly what they want, when they want – from products and services to marketing messages and promotions.

For small businesses, the data collected may not be as “big” as it is for enterprise counterparts; however, the value is just as significant. Understanding when and how customers make purchases, collecting survey responses and opinions, and knowing professional roles and preferred contact information are just a few of the criteria that can enable you to segment your contacts and create unique, personal campaigns. As a marketer at a thriving small business, I can attest to the value that tech tools have both in terms of efficiency standpoint and learning about our customers. Here’s a list of some of my personal favorites and how you can unearth usable data nuggets from each:

Billing and accounting data tools

Small business accounting software solutions like Freshbooks and QuickBooks make it easy to track time, send invoices, and capture expenses, aiding in financial workflows. But there’s another bonus to these applications: Understanding how and when your customers prefer to pay. It's a less obvious piece of information that can help service companies market to future customers and better serve their existing clients.

E-commerce data tools

There are some excellent tech solutions for small businesses in the retail space, providing affordable e-commerce support such as storefront templates, selling tools, site hosting, and data storage. And with your marketing hat on, the customer data available through e-commerce engines like BigCommerce and Shopify are golden in learning about customer preferences and behaviors. For example, learning what your most viewed products are or which products customers are purchasing together can help determine future promotions and drive more sales. Further, the data collected is not only useful for marketing, but also in learning preferences and behaviors that can help small business retailers make

For example, learning what your most viewed products are or which products customers are purchasing together can help determine future promotions and drive more sales. Further, the data collected is not only useful for marketing, but also in learning preferences and behaviors that can help small business retailers make better inventory and operational decisions.

Survey and form data tools

A tool that keeps contact information organized, like FullContact, is helpful for any entrepreneur looking to quickly learn who their contacts are, what they do, where they’ve worked and other demographics based on publicly-available personal and company profiles. To take a deeper dive, it is always a good idea to simply ask your customers whatever you want to know about them. With Survey Monkey’s free options, there’s no excuse to not capture customer insights – no matter what industry you’re in. This tool allows small businesses to quickly create custom surveys and polls for mobile, Web, and email – providing essentially free market research.

Hammering down on data

By collecting and analyzing the customer data collected from your email marketing campaigns, online forms, payment systems, customer surveys, Web tracking tools and e-commerce platforms, small businesses have the power to create personalized marketing outreach that can truly impact their bottom lines. The days of this kind of insight only being attainable by enterprise marketers are long gone, but it’s up to small businesses to harness this valuable information and put it to use. If your business is using one (or many) of the tools listed above, then you’ve already gotten past the first step: capturing customer data. Don’t let it go to waste! Storing all of this data in one place from disparate sources is key to putting it to use efficiently, and in helping your marketing and sales teams learn more about your customers. Here’s one more helpful hint: each of the tools I’ve listed above has tons of integration capabilities, and they are continuously rolling new ones out. So, the next time you’re considering a new time-saving solution or tool to enhance your current processes, keep your customer data top of mind to ensure your arsenal of solutions work collaboratively and efficiently.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are a great stepping stone from Excel spreadsheets and manual data entry, and are the best way to store and organize all of this disparate data. Look for CRM solutions that integrate easily with your existing tools, eliminating the need to transfer information from one system to the next. By combining all existing tools with your CRM, email and marketing automation, you can quickly and easily build personalized communications with your audience based on your existing data. For example, add in language from survey responses, mention past purchases, or even display preferred payment methods, the information collected from all of your tools can help you achieve a personal relationship with your customers.

See related: 5 Tips to Better Customer Interaction on Social Media

Photo credit: solarseven/Shutterstock

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