In a tight economy, one of the biggest challenges of any small business is controlling costs, and ensuring that the products and services which are offered will satisfy customers for the lowest costs possible. Fortunately, there are three easy steps to ensure that customers should be pleased with the changes your small business might make to its product and service offerings:
1. Use customer surveys to determine preferences Simple as it may seem, customer surveys can prevent the launch of new products and services for which there is little customer demand. As an added bonus, you will quickly learn what other features customers would like to see, and if there are others you can leave out. Even if you have to make tradeoffs in creating a new product/service (or altering an existing offering), your customers can help ensure that the changes which are made, are the ones that are most pleasing to them.
2. Provide trial samples (whenever possible) to get feedback In many cases, it is possible to provide a demonstration to allow customers a preview of what the new product or service is. If the trial or prototype is highly successful, then a full-scale roll-out can be offered. If it is only partially successful, then the new products/services might be offered in tandem with some or all of the older products/services. Finally, if the trial of the new offering is a complete flop, then at least no production expenses have been incurred. Customer feedback can help identify what went wrong, so that you are better prepared for making future offerings.
3. Use feedback to build demand for new products/services Positive feedback on samples or prototypes of new products and services should almost always link to the next stage of the purchasing cycle. Is the customer ready to submit an order for more of the product/service they liked? If not, what changes still need to be made? These can be tough questions to ask, yet they can be the difference between making the sale to a new customer, or simply exchanging pleasantries with another prospect. Noticing common qualities of new buyers can then lead to identifying entirely new customer segments, and even markets.
Thus, by using customer surveys to figure out what customers want, letting them try a demo version of your product/service, and finally, using that feedback, your small business can flourish, even when altering existing products and services. This is critically important during rough economic times, but can also be beneficial when the economy recovers.
Copyright 2010, Marc Mays.
Marc Mays is the creator of http://www.myplatinumparachute.com/, which helps first-time small business owners obtain the critical skills needed for their small business success.