How to get feedback on your business

Getting feedback is a crucial part of validating your idea. It helps you to perfect your product, set the ideal price and work out the best way to market. It’s essential to make sure your business is as strong as it can be.

 

Here’s our no-nonsense guide on getting feedback for your business.

Why get feedback

- It’s hard to be objective. You think your business idea is amazing because you came up with it – it meets a need that you think is important, and it’s important to you. And let’s not forget the excitement of coming up with your business idea and the initial development. When you’re wearing rose-tinted glasses and stuff is moving quickly, it’s helpful to get the input of those who are a bit more objective.

- You get inside your target customers’ heads. You might think you know your customers… but do you REALLY know your customers? Reaching out to them and asking what they think will most likely throw up a variety of responses – but it will mean you’ll get to know how people genuinely feel and think about your product.

- It makes your product better. Act on the feedback you receive if it’s appropriate, and you’ll find your product improving or meeting a need more effectively. This is applicable to all businesses, start-up or conglomerate – the successful ones are the ones that kept listening.

Where do you get feedback from?

- Industry events. Networking events are a great chance to discuss your idea with other people and ask what they think, as well as a chance to make useful business connections.  Make sure you go to events that are relevant to your product/ service.

- Surveys. Free tools such as Surveymonkey are a fast and easy way to collect feedback from a variety of people.  It’s so easy to use and you can have a survey made up and sent out within minutes. To get a wide range of responses, post the survey on a blog, send it in a newsletter, post links to it on your social channels, encourage anyone that fills it in to pass it onto someone else. To encourage more responses you could even incentivise the survey, entering everyone who completes it into a prize draw to win a prize or giving them a money-off voucher for when your product launches.

- Focus groups. For more in-depth research, you can pay to get the opinions of a selected focus group. This is great because you’ll get completely unbiased opinions, but it can be pricey. Some companies we found include FGUK Research and QRS Research.  You could also DIY it and reach out to your followers on social media and ask them to join your own focus group!

- Government resources. The Office of National Statistics has a ton of information that’s really useful when building a business. Check out the census to find out about the demographics of different places – perfect if your business is aimed towards a specific age segment or occupation.

- Social media. Social media is a fantastic place to get feedback, as your customers are likely already engaged. Ask your followers what they think, or use Facebook polls to get information. Can’t decide between two logos? Get your followers involved with a photo and ask their opinion. It keeps them involved in the process and will make them feel more involved and connected to you. It also means you can get feedback in an instant.

- Mentors. Advice from a seasoned entrepreneur who knows your industry is worth its weight in gold, which is why we believe our mentoring programme is so vital to the success of our loan recipients.

- Forums. You can post in forums to get feedback on your idea from others. Moneysavingexpert.com, for example, can give you the perspective of people looking to cut costs. Mumsnet can give you the views of parents, whereas posting individual hobby forums gets you in front of die-hard fans. If you’re feeling brave you could even try Reddit!

- Investor pitching. Pitching to investors, even if they decide not to fund you, is great practice and can also provide you with some valuable feedback – even if it’s all negative you can still consider it and think about ways to improve.

- Bloggers. A common practice in beauty and fashion is to send samples to influential bloggers, who then review the product. This will give you honest feedback, and by paying attention to what readers of the blog say in the comments also lets you know how a wider audience see it. This is also a great idea for restaurants and food businesses – throw a bash for food bloggers where they get first dibs on your wares.

- Beta versions and soft launches. ‘Soft launches’ mean you open your doors to the public, but keep it quiet and offer a discount – it’s a way to test and refine your products before the fanfare of a grand opening, and can provide some really valuable pre-launch feedback. If you’re selling a product, set up a landing page on your website where people can register to be beta testers, getting exclusive first access to the product in return for discussing any problems or pain points.

- Friends and family. Cheap and easy, your friends and family are sure to be more than happy to give you some feedback on your business idea or prototype. Try and pick friends and family you know will be honest, rather than sugar-coat their opinions out of fear of offending you.

Common mistakes

- Keeping it too secret. You might be worried that someone will steal your idea, but at the same time it’s vital that you know how to refine your product. Take comfort in the idea that it’s not the best idea that will triumph – it’s the best execution of that idea. And if you get intelligent and plentiful feedback that you can action upon, you’ve got a better chance of coming out on top than the entrepreneur who jealousy guards their idea and comes out with a product that only meets a hypothetical version of what their audience needs.

- Only getting feedback from family and friends. Family and friends are an excellent source of feedback, but they’re unlikely to be completely impartial or be your ideal target audience. Ask people who don’t care about upsetting you – they care about a good product.

- Getting feedback on the idea, but not the prototype. Getting feedback on an initial idea can give you the boost to continue, but an idea is a vague and woolly thing that can be interpreted differently from person to person. Create a tangible prototype and get feedback on this, so the practical questions can be answered.

- Not recording it efficiently. Asking people what they think, hearing back an “Awesome!”, patting yourself on the back and carrying on is not efficient feedback-gathering. Get a system in place – as simple as an Excel document – and note down what people say about your product, asking specific questions.

What to do with negative feedback

- Don’t overreact. If someone upsets you with their comments, don’t take to Twitter to start a public spat or get outraged. Take a deep breath and count to ten, and then evaluate what they’ve said and why. Is it their personal opinion – or could they have a point?

- Don’t ignore it. You don’t have to act on all negative feedback – it’s impossible to please everyone – but don’t cast it aside automatically either. Stay true to your vision and integrity, but always consider the bad feedback to evaluate whether it’s a one-off or an issue others will pick up on.

Examples of famous brands who took feedback on board – or didn’t

Innocent

Innocent should write a how-to guide on how to use social media to get valuable and ongoing feedback from your customers. Asking their loyal fanbase what they thought about various products led to the developments of new juices, their healthy ready meals, and also impacts upon the flavour and formulation of these – ensuring that they’re constantly improving their offering, and giving their customers what they want.

Cadburys

Cadburys unleashed Crème Egg-gate when they revealed that the formulation of the crème egg had changed. Furious petitions attracted thousands of signatures demanding change. More damaging for Cadburys, they’ve seen an impact on the brand’s reputation – the YouGov Brand Index score, which measures sentiment towards a brand, has fallen from a positive 1 point to a painful minus 11.7. If they’d consulted their audience first, perhaps they could have mitigated the shock – or called the whole thing off.