Research Your Customers

How it's done

It’s the first lesson of Business 101: you need to know who your customers are and where they are located, and this page can help you do this. Once you have defined your target customers, you can then use our simple mapping tools to discover where your customers are located. Here are the questions this page will help you answer.

Who are my customers?

Select an industry.

Where are my customers?

For new and existing businesses, finding customers is job number one. Here's an easy to use mapping tool where you can apply your knowledge about your customers to identify where they are located and how many there are. By selecting your intended customer segment with the sliders below you will notice that the total population of individuals, or number of households, changes accordingly. Zooming in and out will allow you to further narrow your analysis by focusing on specific areas and don’t forget to click on the census designated polygons for more granular data!

How do I use this information?

It is one thing to have information about your customers, but another to have thought it through and know what it all means for your business. Don’t worry, this section helps you use customer information to make better business decisions.

The information and mapping tools provided above can help you answer two really important questions that you should be asking yourself: Firstly, what is the total number of potential customers in a location? Secondly, where are my potential customers most concentrated?

Total number of potential customers

For your business to succeed you must have access to enough potential customers. Using the mapping tool above you can determine the total number of potential customers available to your business in the local area.

For smaller retail businesses, cafes, restaurants, personal services and many other types of consumer focussed businesses in urban areas, most customers will live or work less than 3 miles away. In downtown areas or densely populated inner city areas, customers for these types of businesses are likely to be people that live or work less than one mile away. For larger format retail businesses, accommodation and specialty stores and services in urban areas, the catchment from which customers are drawn may be much wider (i.e. over 3 miles away).

In regional or semi-rural areas, customers of most retail and consumer facing businesses, regardless of their size, will be dispersed across a broader area. In these areas, the biggest challenge can often be having access to enough potential customers for a business to be viable. The mapping tools above can help to estimate whether your business will have enough target customers even before you factor in the impact of competition.

For business who deal with other businesses, customers are likely to be located across a broader geographic area. So, in addition to looking for business customers in your local area, you may also look across the larger region, and depending on the nature of your business, even further afield.

Customer hotspots

You can also use the information and mapping tools above to identify where your target customers are most common. These are the locations where the greatest density of your target customers can be found. Focusing on areas with a high number of your target customers may increase the chances of business success.

How does information relate to other things I need to consider?

Understanding who and where your customers are located is critical, but sometimes a business will have to balance many additional factors when making strategic decisions. For example, when determining where to locate a business other important factors may include the amount of surrounding competition, properties costs, land use restrictions, municipal regulations, parking availability and much more. Many of these issues are addressed on this site so we encourage you to investigate the other use cases we make available. Just remember – the more knowledge you have, the better business decision you’ll make!

Bonus tip!

Here’s an important tip for you to consider – in urban areas, having access to enough potential customers may not be a big problem for your business. The real challenge is getting enough of those potential customers to your location rather than your competitors. This is referred to as your “market share” and it needs to be large enough to run a profitable business. Getting the market share you need to survive and thrive will require providing a superior product, better service, greater convenience, more value or a combination of these factors. The only way to know which of these factors will increase your market share is to really understand your customers’ needs and what the competition is already offering. The next section below provides more information on how you can do this.

What else do I need to know about my customers?

While we are providing you with a range of valuable information about customers, the fact is that all locations and industries are unique. As such, to really understand your local customers, you should supplement the information we give you with additional local research. Here are some additional things you can do.

Research your customers

Want to know the secret to business success? Well, here it is – successful businesses understand their customers really, really well. Unfortunately, too many business owners think they know their customers, but are really only guessing. Regular customer research is a great way to gather valuable knowledge about the wants, needs, expectations and behaviours of your customers.

Customer research doesn’t need to be complicated. One way is to simply talk to your customers. This can be free-flowing conversations with individuals or groups of customers (focus group). Another way is to survey your customers to get some hard data that you can furthur analyze. Ideally, you should do both as the knowledge gained from conversations can help you interpret the survey results. The business experts at Info Entrepreneurs have identified 10 key themes to focus on through your customer research:

  1. Who they are – If you sell directly to individuals, find out your customers' gender, age, and marital status. If you sell to other businesses, find out what size and kind of business they are. For example, are they a small private company or a big multinational?
  2. What they do – If you sell directly to individuals, it's worth knowing their occupations and interests. If you sell to other businesses, it helps to have an understanding of what their business is trying to achieve.
  3. Why they buy – If you know why customers buy a product or service, it's easier to match their needs to the benefits your business can offer.
  4. When they buy – If you approach a customer just at the time they want to buy, you will massively increase your chances of success.
  5. How they buy – Some people prefer to buy from a website, while others prefer a face-to-face personal transaction.
  6. How much money they have – You'll be more successful if you can match what you're offering to what you know your customer can afford.
  7. What makes them feel good about buying – If you know what makes them tick, you can serve them in the way they prefer.
  8. What they expect of you – For example, if your customers expect reliable delivery and you don't disappoint them, you stand to gain repeat business.
  9. What they think about you – If your customers enjoy dealing with you, they're likely to buy more. And you can only tackle the problems that customers have if you know what they are.
  10. What they think about your competitors – If you know how your customers view your competition, you stand a much better chance of staying ahead of your rivals.
Online research

Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Quora are a great opportunity for listening and engaging with actual and potential customers. These networks can help you better understand the daily wants and needs your customers have. They can also provide the opportunity to ask questions and get valuable feedback. For more information about online research, check out The Complete Guide to Online Customer Research by Kissmetrics. It provides some great ideas about where you can go online to learn about your customers.

More information

The following links provide further information on conducting customer research.

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Contact us

Adam Hanks
Assistant to the City Administrator
City of Ashland, Oregon

20 East Main St, Ashland, OR

Sandra Slattery
Executive Director
Ashland Chamber of Commerce

110 East Main St, Ashland, OR, 97520