Something I regularly hear from friends and clients is that they opened their small business because they either wanted to be their own boss, take charge of their destiny with something they’re passionate about or even find a more flexible work schedule. The one common denominator here is “me, myself and I.” But, what about your customers and their needs?

While it’s important to focus on yourself and set goals (and achieve them!) for your small business, it’s even more important to quickly pivot to focusing on your customers.

You don’t need access to data to learn about customer needs

So, what does this mean? It means that the vast majority of small businesses are not being designed around the very thing that will keep them strong, sustainable and scalable: a business model with the needs of the customer in the center. Without this focus, your product development, marketing campaigns and partnership opportunities will suffer.

So how do we quickly shift the focus in our business from our needs to our customer needs?

While many small business owners don’t have access to large research teams or data, they can simply talk to their customers to learn about their needs and what they’re looking for. Setting a goal to talk to 10 customers with a list of four or five questions can arm you with powerful information about your customers, and in turn, help grow your business. If you’re just starting out and don’t yet have any customers, you can seek out the ideal profiles of potential customers and speak with them.

What questions should I ask?

A few recommended general questions that can be customized to the type of small business you have include:

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • If you could solve one problem to make your life easier, what would it be?
  • What do you aspire to?
  • What can be done to help alleviate what frustrates you most?
  • What gets in the way of your progress?
  • Where do you look for answers to your challenges?

Keep the conversation going

To truly know your customers, it’s important to maintain an ongoing pulse of communication. Just like small business owners, the needs of your customers can evolve over time. When you stay connected to their evolving needs and desires, your business maintains a vibrant edge.  Your products and services grow with your market.

There are many ways to stay connected. Social media gives us a glimpse into the lives and businesses of our customers, which is helpful for frequent touch points. You can also pick up the phone and send short, casual emails every few months. At the least, it lets your customers know you’re thinking about them and care. Having that level of personalized service always goes a long way.

Tapping into emotion is a power tool

Having those regular conversations – even quick, informal chats – can help you show your personal side, while also learning about your customers. Through sharing a story of what brings you joy or even letting a customer know about a quick business idea you have can go a long way. Through this, you can learn in an emotionally authentic way what makes your customers tick.

Putting some of these tactics into play – remember, it’s less about you and more about them! – can help keep your customers happy and their needs fulfilled. Be ambitiously inquisitive and keep that finger on the pulse so you can continue driving the needle forward to help grow your business!