How Do you Build a Better Business? Start by Asking the Right Questions

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The most successful enterprises are ones that serve their customers unlike anyone else. These companies are in touch with their customers’ current needs and are able to anticipate what they will need down the road.

Figuring this out when you’re a startup or a young business can seem like a daunting task, but the answers are right in front of you if you’re willing to ask the right questions.

In a Lightning Learning Lab titled “Increasing Sales by Understanding Your Customer,” at Maine Startup & Create Week in Portland, Maine, Haj Carr, startup entrepreneur, founder and CEO of TrueLine Publishing, sat down with a room of business owners and innovators to help them better understand and sync with the needs of their target market.

Keep questioning

“When you’re a passionate entrepreneur you don’t just finish the day, go home and leave work — your business is an extension of you,” said Carr, addressing his audience. “You should be constantly thinking about what your clients need and what you can do to serve them.”

He explained how the first step to understanding your customer is to ask questions. Who is my client and what do they need from me?

“All you have to do is ask and you will get the answers you’re looking for,” said Carr.

With a room full of entrepreneurs and like-minded professionals from all corners of business — a photographer, editor, search data analyst, marketing representative and even a CFO, Carr turned to the audience and challenged them to:

  1. Probe clients with questions as to how to better service their needs and encourage feedback to find out what works well and what needs fixing.
  2. Utilize client engagement as a framework to maximize client servicing to ensure customer retention and overall satisfaction.

“All you have to do is ask and you will get the answers you’re looking for.” — Haj Carr

Common business challenges

These points got the diverse group of entrepreneurs thinking and sharing ideas.

Spencer Wood, a recent University of Maine grad and founder of TipWhip, a ride sharing program by and for college students shared his challenge in getting parents to invest in a safe ride home for their kids.

Steve Underwood, the founder of Pakpod, a light-weight, waterproof, versatile tripod designed for outdoor adventurers shared his business hurdle in getting his product in front of the right audience. And Norah Eddy, co-founder of Salty Girl Seafood, a company that sources sustainable, traceable seafood products, shared her challenge in drawing more customers to a frozen product.

Despite their vastly different businesses, many of the attendees found they share similar challenges. “Ask questions to not only your customers, but your fellow entrepreneurs,” encouraged Carr. “Find a way to connect and network with them and you’ll see you share similar goals and challenges.”

This is the spirit of the annual Maine Startup & Create Week — an event that allows entrepreneurs, innovators and business owners to connect, share their stories and ultimately learn from one another to further business growth.