Explore the ‘unknown’ to propel your small business forward

Trial lawyers have an old rule: Don’t ask any question you don’t know the answer to.

It’s good advice when you have a witness on the stand, but the opposite advice is better for small business owners: Ask the questions that you don’t know the answer to.

One of the biggest ways to improve your product, service, or systems is to discover the things people won’t or don’t tell you. Sometimes these are negatives, like the customer service calls people end up not making. But other times the “unknowns” can provide positive, proactive information.

This comes to mind because today I noticed that the hashtag #NetflixNeeds is trending on Twitter. I don’t know if Netflix started this, or some Netflix customers got it going. In any case, it gives consumers the opportunity to say what they would like to see on Netflix and also air some criticism they have with the way the streaming service operates.

If you follow the business news, you know that the original content Netflix and other streaming services create is central to its growth. If the company notices patterns in the #NetflixNeeds posts, it might help them make programming decisions in the future. Further, by following up on the suggestions made in the social media, Netflix will probably get additional positive social media mentions.

Can something like this work for you? Would you consider creating a hashtag like #AcmeWidgetsNeeds to see what your social media followers would say? If you don’t have the courage to put something like that out in cyberspace, it probably means that you know you have some work to do in some areas of your small business.

If that’s the case, get busy fixing the problems.

As a variation on this, you could create a hashtag that addresses the needs of your industry in general, such as #Whatlocalcoffeeshopsneed. An approach like this could reveal bigger surprises that might help you shape an aggressive and creative long-term strategy for growth.

Whether you use a hashtag campaign or directly survey your customers, make it part of your company’s DNA to be always seeking the things you don’t know about your customers.



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