These 3 questions will help you understand your customers

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Consumers have a somewhat privileged place in our society. As the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, puts it: 

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the  customer experience a little bit better.” 

If your customer is the guest of honor at a party, you’d better know a thing or two about them. By learning about your customers—where they hang out, what makes them tick—you can understand exactly what they want, and how to give it to them. 

Of course, it’s easy to say, “Spend time getting to know your audience,” but how do you do that? How do you get to know them exceptionally well… like, mind-reader-bordering-on-creepy exceptionally well? Where would you even start?

Here are three essential questions that are designed to begin the process of transplanting you directly into the brains of your best customer.

Question 1: Where do they hang out?

Unfortunately, the mall is no longer “the cool spot.” 

Depending on your audience, this could be offline, online, or a mix of both. Where do the cool kids hang? The local shopping mall has gone virtual, and the cool kids aren’t just a small group of people wearing what’s on-trend and throwing parties while their parents are away. These trends now last days, sometimes only hours, compared to months or years, and they aren’t just talking to each other, they’re talking to everyone

The reality is, there’s an ever-increasing number of spaces for people to chat, especially on digital. Let’s take a look at some entry-level platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, forums, etc. Within each of these are more segmented, more niche, yet more engaged communities (groups, subreddits, subforums) that all have their unique language and signals. Infiltrating these deeper-level communities is how you will get attuned to how people who will actually experience your product behave. 

A HubSpot poll revealed 95% of respondents go online to learn about the products they interact with, with 44% saying they specifically look for “social proof.” That’s a considerable amount of potential customers talking to more potential customers.

While you’re here, don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth. One of the key things that your best customer will do is interact (online and offline) with others just like them. Congratulations, you just discovered a hive of potential best customers.

If you’re showing up in the right places, you’ll catch all of this chatter and hopefully be able to tailor your messaging accordingly. A good starting point might be to ask where you get the most customer interaction or where your customers enter your funnel.

As an example: Let’s say that your B2B accounting firm is pushing for some cutesy content marketing on Instagram. Your brand posts quick how-to’s and tips every day – which is a great idea in theory; the content is valuable, relatable, and very sharable… The issue with your current strategy is that your audience (businesses looking to outsource their accounting) is likely not going to be hanging around on Instagram. After some research, you may find that your content is better placed on LinkedIn or Twitter. 

But wait! Before you go hunting for where your core audience, you’ll want to hold tight for #2.

Question 2: What are they talking about?

You know where your audience hangs out. Now you need to find out what they like to talk about and how they talk about it. You may be surprised to find out that only 42% of companies are even listening to customer feedback or surveys, so you’d be safe to assume that social listening is even more underused as a tactic in understanding your audience. 

As another example: you run a movie theater or a media streaming business focusing on the golden age of cinema, and thanks to your research, you know that this type of movie-goer is really into voicing their opinions on Twitter. What are they saying about those HD remasters of their classic movies? How much do they hate the constant remakes and the reboots? Once you know what they’re talking about and the language they use to convey how they feel, you can mirror this language (organically, please!) back to them.

While we’re here; what else do your movie-goers talk about? Who else do they interact with (brands and people)? Are there any words or phrases that keep popping up? Perhaps you’ll find another local business to partner with on a promotional or affiliate campaign. You may find some language to key in on that will increase your SEO ranking. The benefits of this type of social listening always tend to increase, the deeper you get.

So you’re starting to learn more about your customers, but time to turn your questioning on its head with #3.

Question 3: What do they know about you?

See also: what is their level of understanding in your industry or around your product? 

Let’s flip things around – what do your customers know about you? 

In trying to speak to your customers on their level, you need to address how much they know – not just about your business or product, but the context it exists within. 

Wealthsimple, unlike typical investment management services, focuses on a younger, less financially-savvy audience. According to WealthSimple’s CEO, “Millennials are missing out on opportunities to secure their financial future.” Aware that many Millennials do not have advanced knowledge of investing, they keep things pretty entry-level and entertaining in their engaging and relatable video ads.

It can also be helpful to break your answers down into four smaller sub-categories: 

  • Beginner – have very little to no knowledge of your brand.
  • Basic – have heard of you but may need some background info.
  • Advanced – you can skip the basics, give them the goods.
  • Expert – you can learn a thing or two from these folks!

Rank your audience’s level of expertise and it’ll make it a lot easier to figure out precisely what your messaging should look like to each group.


Use these questions as a starting point. Go deeper and write more specific questions as you keep learning. The thing about the research and insights phase of your market research is that it’ll branch out (sometimes into rabbit holes and dead ends), but every now and again, you’ll find gold. The more granular you get with your questioning, the deeper you get towards that gold.

Go forth on your journey of understanding. Instead of treating your customers like royalty (as many brands would brag about doing), start by treating them as humans — they much prefer that. Interact and learn as much as you can, treat them with respect, and be genuine.

You’re a smart brand… and here’s the kicker, they’re smart customers, too.

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