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Thriving as a Small Business – Part 2: Customer Insights Strategy

by Katie Rucker on December 17, 2021 Comments Off on Thriving as a Small Business – Part 2: Customer Insights Strategy

As I discussed in Part 1 of this article series, thriving as a small business depends on maximizing resources, closely monitoring the impact of our efforts, and making strategic adjustments along the way. Leveraging the power of Customer Insights to support each of those objectives will ensure decision-making is based on fact and quantifiable truths rather than assumptions or best guesses.

But leveraging the power of Customer Insights is more than simply gathering feedback and performance data. There needs to be an overarching strategy guiding our efforts to make sure each individual project maintains alignment with our big-picture brand development goals. Too often we see brands operate without a Customer Insights Strategy and while their efforts feel productive, their primary metrics and resulting analysis aren’t doing much to move the needle.

Building upon my previous article, “The Role of Customer Insights,” let’s move into some ground-level principles and tactics for developing a holistic Customer Insights strategy.

Start with your Customer Journey Map.

Identifying and outlining the key points of brand engagement along the customer’s journey is a vital aspect of a Customer Insights strategy. The overall goal of leveraging customer insights should be to guide decision making and influence actions that improve your customer’s experience. Whether digital or in-person, mapping every touchpoint will help identify when, where, and how customer insights can add strategic value.

Define your purpose for gathering insights.

This step seems fairly obvious, but that’s why it’s so commonly overlooked. I’ve had many conversations with colleagues, clients, and prospects who are prioritizing customer insights as part of their brand planning but don’t see the return they were expecting. My first question is always, what is your purpose for gathering customer insights? The responses I hear are typically centered on making informed decisions, which is a great intention. However, the more we dig into what that means, the less clear their intentions become.

Before launching into a customer insights project such as market research and feedback analysis, it’s important to clearly establish two key elements: 1) The objective, and 2) The plan of action. These two components make up the purpose and will serve as a framework moving forward.

For the objective, boil things down as far as they can go. Really dig into the reasons why that area of focus is important to your business and be able to fully explain how gathering customer insights will make a difference. In terms of the plan of action, while certain aspects are dependent on results analysis and can’t be determined ahead of time, have ideas of what will be done with the insights once their ready. Know where and when the insights will need to be applied to achieve your objective. These steps will lay the groundwork so your efforts moving forward are building on a solid foundation.

Involve all relevant stakeholders.

Having defined your purpose, loop in the people and departments that will benefit from your current and future customer insights. Ask for their input on whether your objectives and action plans are relevant to their short and long-term goals. If they are, then you can move forward with confidence knowing your project outcomes will add value across your organization. If they are not in alignment with the needs of other team members or departments, you can go back and refine your purpose to better fit organizational objectives.

This step is often bypassed to avoid having “too many cooks in the kitchen.” A fully understandable concern. But taking a structured, focused approach will help ensure stakeholder discussions add strategic value rather than further complicating or prolonging the process. Ask for input on specific details to refine your approach, not brainstorming new project ideas or looking to overhaul the entire strategy. In addition to tightening the screws, involving relevant stakeholders in this way will help them feel included and will help get their buy-in ahead of time. After all, the true value of customer insights is found when they are applied in real-world business scenarios. So, by having cross-departmental approval and endorsement your customer insights projects are more likely to have a meaningful impact.

Follow up with customers who provide feedback.

Customer Insights are largely driven by direct feedback, which means customers are volunteering their time and energy by taking surveys. Standard procedure is to end surveys with a message thanking respondents for their time and input. However, we always recommend taking further steps to show customers their feedback is appreciated and taken seriously.

For example, picture yourself having completed survey for one of your favorite brands. At the end of the survey, an automatic message is displayed thanking you for your time. Then, a day or two later, you receive an email from someone within the brand. They reaffirm that your feedback was received, but they also provide a few details about why they are collecting feedback and how they plan on using results from that specific survey. Pretty nice gesture, right? But it doesn’t end there. A few weeks later, you receive another email from that same person filling you in on what they learned from the feedback gathered. They share a few high-level findings and outline steps that will be taken as a result.

This is what going above-and-beyond looks like. Maintaining communication and bringing you into their process by highlighting the impact of your feedback. That would feel pretty good, right? These added follow-up steps show customers you appreciate them and that their voices truly matter, which will strengthen relationships and promote brand loyalty. To ensure this opportunity doesn’t slip away as you shift focus to other tasks or projects, this level of follow-up care needs to be included as part of your overarching Customer Insights strategy.

Now that we’ve outlined some of the key strategic components, my next article will dig into the ground-level tactics and processes. Keep an eye out for “Part 3: Customer Pulse Surveys” coming soon.


A people-first, purpose-driven business leader and operational expert with a passion and proven aptitude for unlocking potential. Katie brings a unique blend of strategic business acumen, analytical skills, and business development know-how to her role as Chief Operations & People Officer at MacKenzie Corp., a second-generation family business that provides consumer insights and data solutions for clients across a variety of industries. Having joined the family business in 2008 and transitioned to co-owner in 2012, Katie's focus as a leader has been to mirror MacKenzie's outward mission internally by strengthening internal processes, evolving company culture, and promoting employee engagement.

Katie RuckerThriving as a Small Business – Part 2: Customer Insights Strategy