What I've learned about customer research, and what its taught me

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Understanding how vital relationships are for me in my own business has always been something that's important to me. Something I have fundamentally known to be true. But recently, I had an experience that made me realize that I absolutely need to bring my client relationships into my growth process as a business.

Because if I don't, I am doing this whole thing blindly!

I think about relationship building a lot. I talk about it a lot. I know that without relationships, my business can't exist, they're key to our growth as small businesses (which I talk about here). And it's a core value to what I do as a business.

But here's something I didn't realize, or at least didn't connect the dots to until recently.

In order to provide the best services and truly grow my business, it is absolutely essential that I bring my past clients into this process. They are the key puzzle piece to helping me move forward and succeed as a business.

For a very long time I was just blindly trying to figure this out on my own; how best to serve my clients and students.

Sure, we all know we need clients and customers to help us grow monetarily. I don't think there are any secrets there. But it honestly never occurred to me to invite them into the process as I grow my business.

Which is odd, because I'm constantly telling my own clients that they can't do this small business thing alone. They need relationships. They need insight. And this is something I know, and practice every day in my own business. But I was missing a key part here.

Recently I  joined a small business community (sidebar: I joined because I can't do this alone. See a theme here?). It was there that I learned through a community member and new friend Karyn Kelbaugh that I need to start customer research with my past clients. It is essential to help me understand how to move forward.

Whoa. I can not tell you how much this has shifted my thinking.

Over the past few weeks, I've interviewed past clients asking them questions like "What was the motivating factor behind why you chose to hire me?" "What sort of anxieties did you have in your business prior to us working together?" and about 8 other questions. All of these questions are helping me get at the heart of why people come to me. It has been eye opening to put it mildly!

Something I've been thinking a lot about through this process is changing my perspective from self-employed to owning a business. And this is one of those experiences that has made me see I need to start shifting how I think about what my business is and can be. For example, I get customer research. I understand it. I know why it's done. But I always assumed that something like customer research was done for big ol' companies. Corporations. Businesses with lots of bodies. Nope.

And this is one of those moments in my business where I actually felt my perspective shift and grow.

This experience, in many ways has literally given me so much insight into: how I run my business, how I can run it better, how I can offer what I'm the best at, and how I can serve my clients in a way that makes us both happy. What's not to love about this process?

If you haven't done any customer research for your business, I highly recommend you take this step. This is one of those services that you don't know you need. But trust me. You need this.

You can get it done with 3-5 customers. (Here's a good place to begin, then Google. Google is your friend!). Or you can always look into my friend Karyn's services. This process is a lot of work, and if you can delegate it to someone as helpful as Karyn, I recommend it.

This has been a solid reminder that the relationships I have made within my business are literally what keep me a float.