Lecture 3. Listening to Customers
Marketing involves listening as well as ‘talking’ to customers. Market research can be inexpensive and simple. Techniques can be devised once we adopt an attitude that we can learn useful ideas and opinions from customers.

I prefer to use the term ‘listening to customers’ because the term market research is closely associated in many people’s minds with expensive and complex exercises undertaken by large corporations. Consequently, many smaller enterprises in the creative sector believe that they do not have the time or money to do market research.

However the main barrier to market research is not time or money, it’s arrogance. If we have a belief that we know everything about our business and we cannot learn anything from customers, then we will never listen to them. If we believe that we already know everything about what our customers value, what prices they will pay, and what enhancements they would like, there is no point in listening to them.

On the other hand, if we regard our selected and valued customers as partners, we will want to know what they think. If we understand that they might see our products in a different light than we do, we will be curious to understand their different perspectives. If we believe that our customers might have good ideas we can use, it would be foolish not to ask them.

We can use our creativity to devise clever, simple and affordable ways to systematically listen to customers and use their ideas and opinions.

We can ask customers for feedback about our products, we can invite them to suggest improvements, we can enquire about what things they like best. We can use online questionnaires or simply talk to them; we can hold an informal ‘focus group’ of customers or organise a users’ forum. There are many methods we can employ if we use our imagination.

In short, we can improve our creative enterprises by listening to our selected market segments and by regarding our most valuable customers as partners.

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