Some people or companies might know off the cuff exactly what their customers are like. A client profile might be easy. Others have to do some research. Even if you think you know your clients, it's not a bad idea to do the research. Here are some tools.
Surveys are easy to put together and send out to people. However, it is more difficult to get people to fill out surveys and it is even harder to write a good survey. Try it and see how it goes.
Two internet companies that make it easy to send out surveys are SurveyMonkey.com and the forms in Google Docs. You can send out free Internet surveys with both of these companies.
How can you get people to fill them out? That's tricky. You can offer a discount on a service or a product, but that has the potential to take away anonymity. You can set up an anonymous survey that gives away a free prize once the survey is completed, like a free e-book or a coupon.
Ask your clients directly
You can directly ask your clients what they need and want via a phone call or email. This can be the main point of the communication, or you can ask as a part of another communication.
You can indirectly ask your customers for feedback by having your email address and your phone number easy to get to and have messages on your website, signature, and brochures that say something along the lines of "Our customers are our business. How are we doing? Let us know by contacting us here xxx."
Ask objective bystanders
The best people to ask are the people who your clients talk to, who don't have a vested interest in you. One example is the hotel manager who has a monthly chat with the cab and airport drivers, because the customers tell the drivers about their stays on the way to the airport or to meetings-and the drivers have no vested interest in the actual hotel service.
Watch the news If your clients are in a specific industry, keep track of current events in that industry. The current events can help you find out your client's state of mind and determine potential needs. If you help real estate agents, read real estate news and blogs. If you help engineers, keep abreast of engineering technology and trends.
Look at your website statistics
If you haven't set up Google Analytics on your website, do so. The URL for Google Analytics is http://www.google.com/analytics/sign_up.html.
Google Analytics can tell you several pieces of information that are relevant. Do people come to your site from searches on Google and Yahoo, or do they come to your site from links elsewhere? When they get to your site, how long do they stay? How many pages do they visit? What pages do they visit?
What questions do clients ask you?
Keep a log of questions clients and potential clients ask you. Review this log periodically. Your log should have the date, who asked the question, and what the question is.