Five simple steps to grow your creative business

Five simple steps to grow your creative business

Start by talking to your customers

By Neil McKenzie

When working with creative businesses I find that most don’t use one of the easiest tools to take a pulse of the market, check up on their competition and grow their business – talking to their customers! Good organizations are in continuous contact with their customers, not just a “Hello or how are you doing?” when they make a purchase.

Here is how to get started:

1. Choose which customers to survey
Try to pick a random sample of your customers so you have a cross section that is representative of your business. Choose customers that are large and small, new and established, those who buy frequently and those who buy not so often. Be sure to include customers that you know are satisfied, those that you are unsure of and even those you know who are dissatisfied.

2. Choose your survey method
You have a variety of options available to you on how you can conduct your surveys. It could be as simple as taking your customers out to lunch, talking with them on the phone or sending them your survey by email or regular mail.

Today there are several free survey services on the internet. These are easy to set up and administer and most provide a basic analysis of the results. If you have a lot of customers you may want to investigate having an outside firm conduct the surveys. You can use any or all of the above methods and I urge you to find out which one(s) works best for you.

3. Develop your survey questions
Involve others in your organization when developing the questions to ask to your customers. Try to keep your survey simple and short enough to gather the needed information without being too long that your customers lose interest. Here are a few basic areas which you should include:

– What and why do you buy from us?
– What do you think we do well/poorly?
– How would you rate our service, pricing, value?
– How do you go about choosing a supplier for the products/services we provide?
– Who is our competition and how would you rate us against them?
– What do you like/dislike about our competition?
– What are some ways we can improve?
– Are there any products or services we should add/discontinue?
– What do you think of our advertising, marketing and sales efforts?
– What publications do you read and what websites do you visit?
– What ideas or tips could you give us on improving our company and growing our brand?

4. Conduct your survey
I suggest that you initially start out slow and fine tune your survey so that you are getting the information you need. Develop a schedule of when and how many customers you survey, keep track of their names and when they responded. When approaching customers to survey, tell them “We need your help” – most people are willing to help and this will improve your chances of getting more and better responses. Lastly, don’t forget to thank your customers for helping you out!

5. Analyze, share and act on the survey results
There are a number of ways to analyze your results from a simple list of comments to using statistical methods. The important thing is that you read the responses, consider your customer’s ideas and take action if needed.

Many companies make the mistake of not sharing the results with the members of their organization for a variety of reasons – almost all are not good reasons. Make customer feedback and ideas a regular part of managing your business and improving customer satisfaction.

Survey results sitting in a box or computer are not like wine – they don’t get better with age, quite the contrary they are more like wine turning to vinegar. Act on the feedback you get from your customers and look for new ideas and opportunities on how to grow your brand!

I look forward to having you as a regular reader. If you have comments or ideas on this article please post them below.

Neil McKenzie is a visiting Professor at the Center for Innovation (MSCD), where he has developed the course “Artrepreneurship.” He currently is a Centennial-based commercial photographer specializing in business and personal brand photography. Neil has more than 30 years of business planning, marketing and marketing research experience as an economist, management consultant and corporate executive. He was also a founding faculty member of the Regis University MBA program. He can be reached at 720-339-3160, or

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