SBK020 Are You Listening to Your Customers?

Listening to your customers’ feedback is a vital, fundamental element for any business.

At the very least, the voice of the customer is a sure way to ignite the innovation and continuous improvement flames for your business.

Yet, how often is this “back to basics” requirement neglected when a business conducts market research, opting instead to go with gambles, gut-feels and untested assumptions ?

Today however, the advent of social networks and unlimited access to the internet has opened up new ways to listen to your customers.

One such innovative product is IdeaScale, a powerful online tool, based on empowering communities to have a say in driving innovation for a business.

The tool automates the process of collecting ideas from your customers and encourages a voting process to ensure the most important ideas “bubble” to the top of the list.

In this podcast episode, I speak to Rob Hoehn, the co-founder and president of customer development at IdeaScale and ask him where it all began for his company and what inspired him and his colleagues to come up with this idea generation and management tool.

We discuss the main features of this online tool such as the seamless integration with Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and  smart phones as well as the several cool applications this tool has.

For a typical small business, the free, fully functional version of  IdeaScale will probably suffice for your crowd-sourcing needs, with an option to upgrade to feature rich price plans.

If your business is serious about improvement through innovation, then start by listening to what your customers really want, instead of trying to figure out what they want.

Listen to your customers, listen to the Podcast!

Go on and test drive IdeaScale.

Read about the Idea Scale Case Studies

Rob Hoehn’s inspiration comes from this book

19 How to Get Free Business Intelligence

Running any business without the use of Intelligence or Insight is foolhardy. It’s akin to driving a car in pitch darkness, with the headlights turned off ! Although you might start the car, move a few metres, will you reach your destination? I doubt it.

Business Intelligence is what informs the best of business decisions, serving as the headlights for your business by showing where to turn, slow down and avoid obstacles on the journey to achieving your business objectives.

There are many ways to collect business intelligence and fortunately, today the internet provides a vast array of  free methods and tools to gather business intelligence and empower your decisions.

In this episode, I provide practical methods, mostly free and web based, to source for a balanced view of your overall business insight.

In particular, I cover details on how you can collect business insight around the 4 key areas of your business:

Customer Insight – listening to the “Voice of the Customer”
Organisational Insight – a powerful SWOT analysis tool
Competitive Analysis – spark Innovation by analysing your competition
Market Trends – strategies to stay ahead of the game

Enjoy !

References made in the podcast:

Techcrunch

Euromonitor

Nielsen

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

Viral Heat

Action Plan Download Link

Dont forget to send me your questions on any Business Improvement , Kaizen or Continuous Improvement topic or issue.

The first 3 people to send me a question will receive the complete PIMP YOUR BIZ Package, 100% free !

Send an email to brian@smallbizkaizen.com or use the Contact Us Page to pose your question and stand a chance to win this awesome book package prize .

Main Photo Credit

18 Business Planning Made Simple

Writing a solid Business Plan doesn’t have to be as hard as you think.  If 2011 is the year you want to start a business, chances are, you’re going to need a Business Plan.

Whilst some people see the process of writing a good Business Plan challenging, good practical help  is always at hand, if you look for it in the right places.

In this episode, I speak to Craig Frazier of Business Plan Examples about what inspired him to come up with  The Business Plan Toolkit, a DIY  business plan writing template. It is based on a real life coffee shop business plan and uses the familiar MS Word format so it can be updated for any small business.

The Toolkit also includes the 1 year financial Pro-Forma used to project profit and loss, as well as a break-even analysis chart to graphically display to investors where the break-even point is for sales and profit.

Craig discusses:

  • His entrepreneurial beginnings and what keeps him motivated
  • Why the Executive Summary is the Make or Break element of a Business Plan
  • Why a Business Plan should be for a specific audience  – i.e  board of directors, a bank or venture capitalist or for personal use
  • Getting Started and taking the first Step in Writing a Wining Business Plan
  • How he draws inspiration for the book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose written by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos  and to “stick with your gut”  while growing a business.

“If you can’t articulate who you are and what you want to be through a business plan then your company will lack direction and focus”

As a special gratuity gesture to a few lucky Small Biz Kaizen Podcast Listeners, Business Plan Examples has kindly donated 5 Free Business Plan Toolkits to the first 5 people to write a comment on this very post !

So Hurry and be one of the first 5 people to comment, and receive a FREE complimentary copy of this tried and proven template.

Leave Your Comments Below !

What Are Your Competitors up To ?

Always stay close and keep a watch on what your competitors are up to. Innovative new products and services could just be the very thing that differentiates your business from your competitors.Remember this works both ways because your competition is not sleeping either.

Be your Competitor’s Customer

This may sound counter intuitive but it’s far from it. This is the best form of Competitive Analysis for use where your business is in direct competition and/or produces similar goods to your competition. It’s one of the simplest yet most informative methods to analyse your competition’s unique selling point. With the information you gather here, you’ll be able to judge how your business compares as well as the magnitude of the gap.

In the event that your business has no competition or is in a very small niche, why not flip this around and start exploring areas or businesses you may want to expand into.

Let’s delve into the type of information you should be after. Remember to always align and customise the following checklist to suit your particular business.

The Purchasing Experience

  • How much did you pay including any discounts / offers?
  • What options were available to purchase via (sales channels)?
  • Speed of delivery (if applicable)
  • What is the returns policy / money back guarantee?
  • If purchased in person, how friendly were the personnel?

The Goods

  • How many variations (if any) were offered?
  • How was the presentation/packaging? (if applicable)
  • What technology was used/ does it use? (if applicable)
  • What are the features and benefits?
  • What was your experience in using / consuming the goods?

The Quality

  • What materials make up the goods? (reverse engineering where applicable)
  • Are the goods fit for the intended purpose ?

Back Up Service

  • How accessible are the Customer Services?
  • How long does it take to get an issue resolved? (make up a small problem with the goods received)
  • Is there a FAQ or Trouble shooting guide?

At the end of this exercise, list all the  attributes and variables where your current offering/performance is below your competition. These become your opportunities for improvement .