You Don’t Have to Be Nearly as Smart as You Think

    One of the challenges for most business owners today is they need to know what their customers are thinking. Many of them think they know, but they don’t.

    Not knowing what your customers truly need and want can put you, the business owner, at a tremendous disadvantage.

    One way to find out what is going on in your customers’ mind is through the use of focus groups. Focus groups can be an excellent tool for finding out what your customers think and feel about your company, and the service and products it is providing.

    A focus group is simply a method by which a business or organization can obtain a realistic idea of how well it is satisfying its customers. It works best if you or your employees are not present, and you have an outsider run the focus group meeting. The reason is that it allows the participants to speak more freely and not bias their comments because of your presence in the room.

    Here is how it works. Set up a time when you can invite six to 10 customers into a room, and ask them questions about how they like doing business with your company or organization. You want to find out what they see as your strong points and what they see as some your weak links.

    Ask them for suggestions on how you might be able to improve. The longer the meeting lasts the more likely it will be that you will get more specific information on how to improve the service of your company or organization. Usually, an hour to an hour and a half is plenty.

    It is best to thank the focus group’s participants with a small gift. This is the least you can do to someone who has provided some very valuable information that you can use to help you run your company better.

    The next step is to have you and your employees review the information and evaluate how your company can use it. You don’t have to do everything they suggest. Prioritize the ones that are in key result areas. Then take action and implement the suggestions that make the most sense. At this point, monitor the results for thirty days and then make appropriate adjustments.

    My point is that your customers want to do business with you; you just have to constantly find out what they need and want and how they want it. Then give it to them.

    Focus groups can help you learn what it is, your customers and clients really want, and when you deliver the goods, great things can happen to your business.

    Tom Borg is president of Tom Consulting LLC in Canton, Mich. He works with small and mid-size businesses. He shows them how to find, attract, sell to and keep enough of the right kind of clients and customers and maintain a profitable business. Contact him at