Are You Offering Your Customers the Right Products?

    By Ken Mueller | Small Business

    Are You Offering Your Customers the Right Products? image 300px Google Maps 5.0 AndroidGoogle Maps for Android

    My friend Greg is frustrated. He works for a real estate consulting firm and loves using Google Maps to make his job easier. Except for one thing. I’ll let him tell you in his own words:

    We send analysts all over the country to conduct market feasibility studies. Part of the field analyst job is writing up a site description of the study site. When I started back in the late 80′s, I verified site descriptions using a paper map. Google Maps has revolutionized this part of my job, as it allows me to zoom in to the site level and actually see the site and surrounding area as if I were on the ground. It even includes parcel boundaries, which the other sites do not have.

    It could be a one-stop shop. But — if there’s a creek or a river, I have to click out of Google Maps to Bing or Yahoo to verify information that should be freely available on Google Maps. If their competitors can label Sougahatchee Creek, in Auburn, Alabama, why can’t Google Maps? It’s an extra website to open to find information that should be readily available at what, otherwise, is the best site for doing what I need to do.

    Now, this might not seem like a big deal, but think about it. Google offers Greg everything he needs except for one thing. And that one thing is what often drives him to Google’s competitors: Bing or Yahoo. Now I don’t have to tell you that the competition between these three companies is rather stiff. Google is Goliath, and the other two are rather feisty Davids. Google and Google Maps get the large majority of the audience share, but they are not invincible.

    If Google offered this one simple thing, Greg would never have a reason to go to the competitors. On the other hand, Bing and Yahoo could keep Greg if they began to offer other features as well.

    Now certainly no business can afford to jump on every little customer request or whim, but it is important to make sure you are offering the right things to your customers. This can come from two particular types of listening:

    1) Listen to your customers – find out what they are saying and what they want and need. Not everything will work out, but if you are more responsive to their requests, they will have less reason to go elsewhere. It’s important to know what your customers are saying about your business, whether they are addressing you directly or not.

    2) Listen to your competitors – find out what your competitors are offering that you aren’t, and determine how that will impact your customers and potential customers, and eventually your bottom line.

    Don’t just offer products and services because you’ve always offered them. If they are losing you money, drop them. On the other hand, are there new products, services, and features that you can use to attract new customers and prevent your existing customers from drifting away? Perhaps it’s just a matter of doing what you already do, but doing it better. Maybe it’s being more “present” and available to your customers. In some cases it might be offering better customer service than your competitors.

    Whatever it is, make sure you are listening, and then offering the right things to your customers. Don’t give them a reason to walk away.

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