COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | HENRY DEVRIES

Get inside your client's head

What if you could get inside a potential client's head and see things from their perspective? If you could match how you sell your services to how they want to buy, then you would naturally be able to sell much more.

"To know what your customers and prospects are thinking is the ultimate gift you can give your bottom-line, and if you can buy this knowledge at next to nothing, even better," says Sharron Senter, a New England-based small business marketing consultant and expert at generating low-cost sales leads. Senter is well known for her nationally distributed free weekly e-mailed marketing tips, and is the author of the downloadable special report series, Small Biz Survival, available at www.sharronsenter.com.

Senter says there are three online marketing research strategies entrepreneurs can use to get inside their customers' heads without dishing out thousands of dollars to a market research firm. All three are easy to use, return information immediately, and in most instances cost nothing, or almost nothing.

Search buttons

"Very few professionals, consultants and entrepreneurs know about an incredible Internet research tool that costs zero, but returns incredibly targeted customer and prospect information," says Senter. "A must on your to do list should be to investigate the Atomz search button function, www.atomz.com."

Essentially, you upload the Atomz search button at a visible location on your Web site, such as the top right corner of a home page. Visitors conduct a search for the resources they're looking for. Then, once a week Atomz e-mails a complimentary report to you with the exact words and phrases visitors searched for the week prior.

"Imagine having Web site visitors one week, and knowing what they wanted less than seven days later?" says Senter. "Ultimately knowing what visitors are searching for will help you determine your next information product to produce, book to write or how to prioritize future product enhancements."

Online surveys

According to Senter, another incredibly accurate online marketing research tool is the online survey. Online surveys allow businesses to conduct professional market research surveys, get immediate answers and analyze the data in real-time.

Typically the surveys are hosted on the vendor's platform. In many cases a business can implement a simple survey for free; however, you'll have less options, including how many questions you can ask survey participants and how many responses you're allowed to receive.

For many of the free online survey providers such as SurveyMonkey, www.surveymonkey.com or Zoomerang, www.zoomerang.com/Login/index.zgi, you can ask up to 10 (SurveyMonkey) and 30 (Zoomerang) questions and receive up to 100 responses per survey for free.

However, if you want more, you'll need to pay. Still, even if you want more, prices start at just under $20 a month. SurveyMonkey charges $19.95 a month, which includes up to 1,000 responses a month, then 5 cents per response after. Plus, you can create and conduct as many surveys as you want every month. Imagine that you have a customer e-mail list of 200 people, and you're trying to determine what these 200 people need to help them increase their business, live a better life, earn money, etc. You simply go to SurveyMonkey, write some questions and e-mail the link to participate to your customers. As your customers respond with their needs, you receive their feedback in real-time.

Survey polling

"Finally, another inexpensive online market research tool is the survey poll," says Senter. You've probably seen them; upon entering a Web site you see a box with a question and the option to select a true or false response. The process is automated, and depending on the script, will return the up-to-date poll results to the participant upon submitting their vote.

Why is this helpful? Polls are simple, fast and fun. They're a great tool to use to collect fast customer and prospect information. For example, if you're trying to decide between two titles for your next book, white paper, e-report or product, conduct a poll. Your poll could read, "Check which title you most prefer, (1) 6 Steps to Reducing Tension or (2) Reducing Tension Saves Lives."

Pricing varies widely for poll HTML code. Some are free, such as CGI-World's Poll It script, www.cgi-world.com/pollit.html. Formsite, www.formsite.com, allows free access but you only receive five forms (surveys) per account, and they'll only store 10 responses at any given time, plus you're limited to 30 items per form. Items are considered questions, links or graphics. Or you could buy their deluxe package at $9.95 a month and easily upgrade your forms availability to 500 results stored per form, five forms per account and up to 100 items on a form. The simplest way to find affordable polling scripts is to conduct a search at www.google.com, such as ("your expertise" free polling scripts.)

"The online market research opportunities to get inside your customers' heads are not only endless, but cheap," says Senter. Before spending money on hiring a market research expert, she advises that you do your due diligence and try some of the easy, fast and complimentary resources on the Internet. However, before you embark on a customer collection information spree, decide what you plan to do with the knowledge before you begin.

"All the information in the world won't help you grow your business," says Senter. "Rather, how you manage it will."


DeVries is a marketing coach and writer specializing in lead generation for professional service firms and technology service companies. A UCSD Extension instructor since 1984, he is the author of "Self Marketing Secrets." Visit www.henrydevries.com or e-mail questions to henry.devries@sddt.com.

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