The modern marketplace is a competitive and challenging
environment. The increasingly global nature of doing business now means there
may be less customer loyalty. According to a recent
Experian study, three quarters of companies that have built strong loyalty
programs are seeing a return on investment.
Consumers may now be less trusting in general, especially
since not all companies or industries have stellar reputations. Because of
increased choice, online shopping and social media, customers have more power
yet many are confused thanks to data overload.
Not surprisingly, sales and marketing departments often
of data overload, to determine precisely what their customers want.
Fortunately, with a “back to basics” approach, you can reconnect with your
customers. Here are five of the best ways you can revisit a traditional formula
to know what your customers want.
1) Imagine You Are Your Customer
When you are preoccupied with your core business and your
range of products, it can be very easy to overlook what your customers want.
Taking a step back to imagine you are your customer can allow you to see a
fresh perspective on the range of choices, the products offered by competitors
and factors that influence their buying decisions.
This exercise can help you to develop a better understanding
of your customer and other companies in your space. It will not only help you
to more effectively market your business, but can also help you anticipate the
strategies of your competition.
2) Track Your Customer Activity
relationship management software can be helpful because such systems track
customer activity. You’ll be able to determine if there is any stage of the
ordering process where your systems aren’t keeping buyers engaged. Insight into
whether your customer is satisfied helps you develop new, repeat customers.
Often, these are the kind of people who recommend you to their friends and
social media contacts.
“A good example of this approach has been conducted at
hospitals, where interns were asked to check in as a fake patient,” says John
Boitnott, a longtime digital consultant who
advises companies on customer retention. “This method allowed the interns to
gain insight into the patient experience and helped them develop their bedside
manner. Online businesses can replicate this by creating a fake order and tracking
3) Create Diverse Customer Teams
Often people get a little set in their roles in a company
and forget about the overall impact that can have on the customer. You may wish
to have employees work across departments from time to time so they can share
diverse perspectives with each other. For example, place a warehouse team
member in the sales department or vice versa. This change of environment is an
effective way for people to share fresh perspectives on everything from
customer needs to improvement of company processes.
4) Learn With Your Customers
Many companies take part in industry events and seminars but
give little thought to inviting customers. However, this can provide a very
illuminating snapshot into what your customer wants.
This approach was used by GE, who invited a selection of
their top customers in China to a seminar on innovation and leadership with
account managers and local executives. This event helped the GE executives gain
a better insight into the mindset of their Chinese counterparts.
5) Anticipate Future Needs
Focusing on what customers will want in the future is
thought to be part of the vision of industry leaders such as Richard Branson
and Steve Jobs. Seeing different futures with scenario planning tools will
allow you to explore how market shifts will affect your customers.
Understanding customer needs can be a real art form. You may
have to get out of your own way in order to gain a real understanding of your
customers. For instance, psychologists say you are more likely to listen for
problems that fit your own solutions, while discounting others. This
unconscious approach may cause missed opportunities because you’re addressing
your own problems, not those of your customers. Try the methods mentioned here
to see what your customers are saying. That will keep you on the path to
building and growing your business.
Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hostt,
specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free,
for life. Previously he was the co-founder of Pixloo, a company that
helped people sell their homes online, that was acquired in 2012.