As a small-business owner, you can do research and development every time you have a conversation with a client. This reconnaissance should be part of your ongoing sales efforts, because in each conversation you can learn what problems you can solve for the client. Your observation of what they are doing adds to your knowledge base and helps your understanding of the whole picture, improves your knowledge of the job, and keeps you up to date on industry developments. If you can understand not only what your clients are doing today but also what they will be doing in the future, you can prepare yourself to meet their continuing needs.
For example, if you observe that your client is investing in the latest technology, you can use this knowledge to keep up with technology and know what your customer will demand in a few months or years. This should lead you to do more R&D, planning, and design. Even if your basic product remains essentially the same, you may need to revise something about it to make it compatible with the latest technology. Your customer’s technology changes may affect how you sell or deliver your product. They may expect your entire inventory to be online and available for ordering, information, or 24-7 help. Being ready for their changes will help you keep your current customers and attract more customers like them.
Marilyn Holt, CMC