You don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it.
For customer feedback, it seems like you don’t know what you are missing until you have it. Feedback does help improve your product, but rooting the good from the bad is time consuming and is sometimes more trouble than it’s worth. So, you need to identify which feedback is most important, figure out a system to consistently gather new feedback and look for ways to get more customers participating in your program.
What Information Should You Gather?
What you want to know will depend greatly on your business. For businesses that rely on selling items in a store on or offline, you might want to know about user preference for something or why some users get two steps into your shopping cart while others finish their purchases.
Bloggers may want to know things like what attracts readers to their writing, what types of ads readers would be ok with seeing, or what features should be added to an existing mailing list. Search your brand on social media and follow the users that are talking about you. Before a layout change, it might be a good idea to query your audience on things like favorite colors.
Does the Feedback Mechanism Matter?
Yes, and no. Yes in the sense of customer preference. No because each method of gathering feedback is just as valid as another. A blast email survey to a group of your contacts asking questions about their shopping experience gives users the chance to anonymously share feedback with you. Public reviews might also give a customer some satisfaction, knowing that their opinion helps someone else make a decision. Online reputation management companies like Brand.com have an extensive catalog of tools designed to search for and respond to this type of feedback. A comment mentioned in passing on Twitter might be relevant to your business, but if you’re not equipped to locate and respond to it you’re leaving money on the table.
Should You Incentivize Feedback?
This depends greatly on the platform you are utilizing. Yelp specifically asks that you not incentivize Yelp reviews in order to keep the integrity of the review pure. It’s a valid concern, but offering a giveaway to one lucky winner out of hundreds or thousands of reviews is a good way to generate some interest. The question is whether that interest is genuine, and you might not be able to answer that quickly. Incentives should not be too grandiose, just enough to entice someone to participate.
If you find yourself devoting a significant portion of your budget to incentivizing reviews for your product, try doing a smaller giveaway to some influential bloggers. Getting others to try your product may be more effective than paying for reviews.
What About Market Research Groups?
Market research is more attainable than you might think. You don’t need to spend a large budget on research, you can try hiring a consultant in the field. It’s a significant cost upfront, but someone with experience can help you make some of your early moves so your business can grow.
Any data you can gather on how customers behave, what products they respond to and sales techniques that work will help get you off the ground. From there, management and planning will take you to the skies.