7 Ways to Find Out Who Your Customers Are (Without Being Annoying)

05/19/2016 03:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The key to good customer relationships is authenticiy. But how do you start a conversation if you don't know who your customers are? Here's how to introduce your business without being intrusive.

A. Leverage the Power of Sports Events

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I'm a huge believer in the power of networking in a sports setting. If the budget allows, buy season tickets to a sports team (anything from professional to semi-pro and collegiate levels) and invite sets of customers to each game. The relaxed atmosphere will allow your customer to open up more than you would expect. Not only do tickets serve as a networking tool, they also provide employee perks! - Cyril Agley, Talon Ventures LLC

A. Relate to Your Customers

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Don't jump right into business. Take a minute to talk about your day and quickly shift the focus to your customer's day or business. The more customers talk about themselves and what problems they're trying to solve, the more comfortable they become. When it feels like a genuine conversation and not a scheme or interrogation, you'll be surprised how much they open up. - John Arroyo, Arroyo Labs, Inc.

A. Use Keyword Searches

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Use search engines to research clients. Conduct keyword searches with the contact's name and company and comb through the search results. Then, do the same searches, adding social media channels to locate their personal and professional pages. If they're active online, you will get to know your customers and they won't be bothered in the process. - Christopher Rodgers, Colorado SEO Pros

A. Read Amazon Reviews of Books in Your Field

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This sounds crazy but, one of the times that customers are the most honest are when they review books on Amazon. Search books in your field (we'd search "Buying rental properties," for instance) and look at the reviews. By taking note of the things that come up repeatedly (what did they like or hate, their tone of voice, things other authors got wrong, etc.), you can learn a lot about what they struggle with and how to help. - Copley Broer, LandlordStation

A. Engage on Social Media

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You would be surprised how open people are to expressing their thoughts from behind a computer screen. At AlignedSigns.com, we love to leverage that propensity. In addition to using Facebook and Twitter analytics, we ask real customers what they think. We also make a point to reward customers for sharing their constructive feedback, whether it's positive or negative. - Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

A. Ask Thoughtful Questions

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Asking your clients thoughtful questions and trying to learn about them can be a catalyst for a long-term symbiotic relationship. We know that being open and connected to our clients is a recipe for success, but asking thoughtful questions gives you the initial spark. - Max Coursey, Tiger Prop

A. Ask for Feedback

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When our customers complete a purchase, we leave a note from the founder asking what we can do better. It's a great way to start a dialog with customers and learn more about them and what they are looking for. - Arry Yu, Emotiv Labs, Inc dba GiftStarter

These answers are provided by members of FounderSociety, an invitation-only organization comprised of ambitious startup founders and business owners.