A Design Tool To Help Grow Your Business -for Small Business Owners & Non-Design Professionals

Gentlemen and Ladies…. This article is for small business owners and non-design professionals who are doing their best, yet to taste success — who want to stand out from the crowd, but somewhere high profits are elusive. If you are in the initial stages of your business or planning stage of business — It’s a great time to use this tool.

Identify Yourself

As a designer, we first look at our client’s capabilities, resources, business model etc… I assume before beginning any work, you have done your SWOT analysis — Your capabilities, Your resources etc… (Your education, background, knowledge, passions, specialised skills, etc…I’m not planning to go deeper on this topic)


Being a designer, our next focus is “USERS”(Your customers). There’s a dangerous assumption that we know what they want.

It’s not about what the customers like, but it’s about getting inside their minds to think like them and understand their emotional drives.

Once you understand your customer’s needs, wants and desires, you can tune your product/service offerings. Otherwise, you are just buying a lottery ticket, hoping for success.

When you begin to understand user’s psychological motivations, emotional triggers, how people do certain jobs in different situations, how and why people buy, how they recognise the need and solution, their everyday activities, how they prioritize their time, energy, money — You can much more efficiently market in a way to compel them to buy your product/service.

It’s not about us. It’s always about THEM.

“Oh…you are talking about customer research? That’s very expensive”

“Bro…but you are a small business owner. You can do research without being expensive”

Designer’s research tools are Focus Group Research, Personnel Interviews, Surveys, Ethnographic research, Research by Empathy, Secondary Research. One tool which will help small business owners is conducting “Personnel Interviews”.


The fastest, easiest and most enjoyable way to figure out the requirements of customers is to ENGAGE with them in a face-to-face, real-time dialogue. Go and Meet a couple of existing clients, some prospects, your best and worst clients over breakfasts, lunches, coffees. Use Skype if needed. Ask questions at least for an hour. If you do this, you and your business communication will speak “Prospect Language” and you will know where to promote your product/service, when to promote your product/service and how to position your product/service.

This research tool is not appropriate for a large sample of a population. A sample of 5 to 10 is good enough. This tool, if used properly, will collect rich qualitative data about users, provide a holistic view, which can be used for our product/service offerings.

Great!! Let’s assume that you have agreed with me that every small business owner needs to develop the skill for conducting “Personnel Interviews” for their business growth. So, how to do it successfully? Any shortcuts — We, humans always look for workarounds. We do not like to use the “Recommended Practices”. Let’s Keep it Simple — You need to know only about asking”OPEN ENDED” Questions.


Open-ended questions make a user provide detailed answers reflecting their attitudes, behaviours and actions. You have to encourage people to tell stories or experiences in their own terms, words. Open-ended questions help you to probe deep. Remember, deep probing will bring the necessary data for us. Let’s see some examples for leading and non-leading questions.

Imagine you are a jewellery shop owner and you are talking to one of your lady customers.

Do you like this color? (Closed question — Answer=yes or no. Not a useful question)

Are you happy with this jewel? (Closed end question)

Did you find the jewel which you wanted? (Closed End Question)

Do you like this jewel? (Closed-End)

Which jewellery do you like? (Closed-end)

Do you like this shop? (Closed end)

Did you see the way the salesman was showing the items? (Closed End)

Why did you select this shop? (Limit the use of “why” questions)

Some more examples -


Written by

Secular Humanist, Business Growth Consultant, Design Thinker, India. Reach me at mmshah8@gmail.com. or https://www.shahmohammed.com

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