How To Use Your Year-End Budget To Get To Know Your Customers – Article

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How To Use Your Year-End Budget To Get To Know Your Customers

By: Andrew Zenyuch, Innovative Issues Editor

The year is slowly winding down (or quickly if you’re in my shoes), which means it’s time to start thinking about your budgets for next year (and if you haven’t, you may want to hit that panic button soon – like right now – go!).

Some of you have the distinct luxury of still having money left in your budget. If you do still have money left – bravo! You’ve managed your budget well and met your goals in a cost-efficient manner. The only problem is you’ll lose the money you have if you don’t spend it. Worse yet, you might get less money next year than you did this year for your budget.

If you find yourself in this situation, why not use what’s left of your budget to get to know your customer better? You never know what valuable insight you might gain from it, and it’s relatively cost-effective when all the costs are taken into account.

Here are a few ways we recommend to get to know your customer with what’s left in your budget:

  • Blogging
    The blog continues to evolve as a great way to get in touch with your customers. The logistics couldn’t be easier: you set up a password- protected blogging website (we use www.typepad.com) where only the customers your recruit would have access. Each post is a question you would like your customers to respond to, and they do so in the comments section of that post. They are responding from the comfort of their own home at a time that is convenient for them. Using this method is cost-effective and logistically-easy to accomplish.
  • Homework
    Homework is something we typically ask an ethnographic respondent to complete either before or after their interview. This can take the form of collages of images cut out from magazines, pictures of a certain event or moment in time, or a video of a customer talking about what they like and don’t like about a product or just of their daily routines. We’ve been using the last option a lot lately. Disposable video cameras are only about $30 each. You could even have them post the video directly to YouTube. Video is a great way to see exactly what the customer experience is with your product or service. How better to hear about potential consumer needs than a video of a consumer using your product? Flickr is also a great way to get to see customers’ photos without going to visit them (as is evidence by the Flickr What’s In Your Bag Photo Pool). These homework options give you insight into your customer’s lives and value systems without having to leave the office.
  • LIFEBytes Online™
    A great way to leverage the audio and video tapes/files you have from recent projects is to upload them to your own LIFEbytes Online searchable web portal. A database is created from the transcripts of the audio/video (not simply key words as in YouTube). The video is then edited so that a simple ‘Google-like’ text search is done, and the result is the corresponding audio/video clips. This is a powerful way to put the Voice of the Customer on the desktop of all your team members. As video is added from new (or older) research projects, the database will hold not only the specific findings of each project, but also the comments/observations that at the time seemed less important. We are finding that these ‘out-takes’, when searched across many reports, can result in very significant insights.

So as you can see, having left over money isn’t a bad thing – especially when you use it to get to know your customer. And who knows? You may take advantage of one of the activities above and find an insight you didn’t previously have, which could lead to a whole new innovation or product.

Or, you can take the money and blow it in Vegas, but that’s a whole different article…