"How much do you know about your customers right now, at this moment?" asks John Kembel in an article at MarketingProfs. You can't depend solely on the static nature of composite profiles, he argues, when the current downturn has put needs and attitudes in a state of flux. "[Y]ou need to know what your customers are thinking from day to day—what they need and what they want, what motivates them, how the economic decline has affected them, and what they'll be ready to buy on the upslope," he advises.

According to Kembel, you can better understand your customers by using online communities in three ways:

  1. To understand and observe. There's no better way to know how a customer feels right now than to read what she has to say.
  2. To generate new ideas. You don't have to wait for customers to make suggestions; open the floor and invite their input.
  3. To validate and refine ideas. Kembel points to Rally Software, which asks its community to vote on up to 100 new ideas each month. "The best ideas are woven into product-development systems and processes," he notes, "putting them on the product road map." Now, that's community.

The Po!nt: Stay current through social media. "[F]ast-changing conditions make it essential to maintain an ongoing understanding of what [your customers are] saying and doing—today, tomorrow, or right this moment, if need be," Kembel concludes.

Source: MarketingProfs. Click to read the article.

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