Customer Experience

Things You Can Learn from Your Existing and Past Customers

Your customers are absolutely key to your business. But have you ever stopped to think about what they can teach you?

Listening to your customers is a fantastic way to gain valuable insights into your business. Not only will this help you ensure high customer satisfaction, but you can also learn how to improve and grow your business.

Whilst focus groups or customer surveys are great ways to understand what your customers are thinking, even their everyday interactions with your business can teach you a lot.

Here are some of the key things to pay attention to so you can learn from your existing and past customers.

1. Speak their language

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You’ll have no doubt heard the phrase “you need to speak their language” when creating a marketing plan for your small business. But what does this actually mean?

Essentially, you need to communicate with your customers in a way that’s easy for them to understand and connects with their tone of voice, sense of humour etc.

In order to speak their language, have a look at the way they talk so you can communicate with your customers effectively. Learn from your existing and past customers by studying the language they use in their reviews, feedback forms or enquiry emails.

Is it casual or formal? Is it light-hearted or serious? Do they use cultural references or slang words? This is a really useful way of creating a tone of voice for your brand that resonates with customers.

Also, look out for the words they use to describe your products and services. This will help you avoid using lingo, jargon or abbreviations that they might not understand.

More about jargon and how to avoid it in your small business marketing.

2. Profitability and pricing

Another thing you can learn from your existing and past customers is whether or not your prices are right. There’s no point running a business if it’s not profitable, so make sure you pay attention to this.

Take a look at how past customers have tended to shop with you. Do they buy a single item, or do they buy multiple? Is repeat business common? Do you get a lot of abandoned carts in your online shop? This can help you understand if your prices are too high or too low.

Need to raise your rates, but finding it tricky? Here are my top tips for making it happen.

3. Demand

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Is there a high demand for your products or services, or do you struggle to get people interested? Is there a peak in demand at certain times of the year? Look back and learn from your existing and past customers to determine how in-demand your business is.

Did past customers tend to shop more in the run-up to Christmas than any other time of year? Then make sure you have extra stock and resources available to meet the high seasonal demand.

Did previous customers have to be put on a wait-list due to high demand? This is a great sign that business is booming, but try to make sure you have extra stock available to avoid any disappointment next time you launch a new product.

If there are dips in demand at certain times of the year, plan your marketing around this to help boost your business at quiet times.

4. Your ideal customer

When making a marketing plan, it’s really useful to have an “ideal customer” in mind. This will help make sure your marketing plans appeal to this type of person and will help you gain the right sort of customers.

But don’t just pull this ideal customer out of thin air. Learn from your existing and past customers in order to create this ideal profile. Take a look at the people who have previously bought your products or used your services.

It’s likely that there will be some people who don’t fit the ideal customer profile, but you’ll soon start to see trends. Your ideal customer might be a 30-something mum in the city looking to spend money on experiences for her family: this is who you should focus your marketing efforts on.

Find out more about how to define the ideal customers for your small business and turn them into paying customers.

5. New ideas

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If you learn from your existing and past customers, your customers can become your biggest source of business inspiration. It makes sense to be inspired by the people who are actually buying your products or services!

Whether you directly ask for feedback, pay attention to their buying habits, or even just look at what they’re liking and sharing on social media, your customers can provide you with lots of new ideas.

This can help you create new products or add new features to your existing products. Or you may want to introduce new services for clients, or even add new special offers to encourage customers to buy from you again.

6. Learn about their goals

If you know what a customer’s end goal is, it’s much easier to provide a product or service which fulfils this. Take some time to figure out why your existing and past customers bought your product.

Was it to perform a certain task? To save them time? For convenience? Were they buying as a gift for someone else?

Once you have a clear idea of your customers’ goals, you’ll be able to provide a product that suits their needs. Also, you’ll be able to tailor your marketing to let them know about this.

The easier and clearer you can make things for the customer, the more likely they will be to buy your product. And, the more you learn about their motivations, the sooner in their journey, you’ll be able to reach them.

7. How does your product benefit them?

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Leading on from the goals, another thing you can learn from existing and past customers is how exactly your product benefits them. Pay close attention to reviews for this one, and look at how they describe the product.

They might say things like “I love it because it saves me so much time” or “I love it because it looks beautiful in my home”. Or they might say “It’s much better quality than my old one” or “I’ve had mine for a year and it looks good as new”.

Pay attention to what your customers are saying. These are your strengths, and things that you should focus on in your marketing.

If, however, there is a benefit that you think is great but doesn’t get mentioned by customers – perhaps you should look at conveying this message to customers through your marketing. Make sure people are fully aware of the uses and benefits of your product.

Read more about how to use features & benefits to attract more customers to your small business.

8. Triggers

A big thing you can learn from existing and past customers is what triggers them to make a purchase from your small business.

What made them take the leap and hand over their hard-earned cash? Perhaps it was a particular marketing campaign you ran, a Facebook advert, a special limited-time offer or a newsletter with a discount code.

Take a look and find out what the main triggers are so you can repeat these going forward.

On the other hand, if you find there are certain triggers that stop a customer from completing their purchase, try to find a solution for these.

For example, an off-putting pop-up on a certain page of your website might be stopping people from making a purchase. Remove this, and see if your sales increase.

Find out more about marketing your business without annoying potential customers here!

9. What stops them from buying?

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Finally, there’s a lot you can learn from existing and past customers about what it is that stops them from buying your products or services.

In order to get better results in the future, look at the thresholds, obstacles and objections that keep people from purchasing.

Are your products too expensive? Perhaps you need to retarget your marketing at an ideal customer with more disposable income.

Is your e-commerce website hard to navigate? Perhaps you should redesign it to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for.

Do customers only buy when there’s a special offer on? Perhaps you should start a loyalty scheme to encourage repeat business.

Over to you: Next steps

When was the last time you listened to your past and existing customers? Have a look at the online reviews and feedback you’ve received in the past, find out what they say about you on social media and ask them if you want to find out more.

Marketing your small business is not about you, it’s about what you can do to help them. So make sure to put yourself in your customers’ shoes to deliver an even better service!

If this post has got you thinking about your approach to your marketing, and you’re keen to learn more, check out my three-part series on customer-focused marketing!


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
7 Ways to Keep in Touch with Your Existing Customers
How to Get Repeat Business From Existing Customers
Small Business Growth: 7 Ways to Ask the Right Questions
7 Steps to Improve Your Customer Experience

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.