The greatest information that you can get is from your customers. Consume every word they say and digest it properly.
Consumer feedback is the vein of gold that miners look for. It can provide you with “shoe on other foot” experiences about your products and your business interactions; this is stuff that would be difficult for you to obtain as the business owner on your own.
Consumers, by their very nature, are “the market”, can and do provide some interesting insights into where product development should be happening as it directly applies to them. This is the ultimate in micro-consumerism. When a consumer asks a question, they have engaged in the product and are taking the time to help you in molding the product into something that they will buy.
Micro-consumerism does however have its pitfalls. Tastes and preferences do vary wildly and as the business custodian you will need to vet these suggestions on a case by case basis. Say, for example, customer one would really like broccoli flavoured ice-cream. This would certainly be an interesting taste, but I am not sure that it would be a taste sensation. Meanwhile, customer two would like to see a greater range of berry flavoured yoghurt based product.
The industry, as a whole is moving towards a healthier style of confectionery, so in this case, the no brainer would be to investigate customer two’s suggestions as it fits in with what the general public would probably expect (some market research required to verify this) as well as meeting the industry direction of a healthier product.
So, seek industry directions for macro-guidance, but value and evaluate consumer feedback for the required fine tuning. The end results may provide a value adding USP and give you the jump on the competition.