Small businesses need marketing more than ever. I have just spent the last 3 months travelling around Australia working with medium businesses CEOs. They have identified that they need to invest in their marketing strategy because their current sales approach is no longer working. Their sales approach has been by-passed by their customers and is less elevant. We know that up to 75% of the sales cycle is now done by the customer online, talking with friends, researching, looking at reviews even before they engage with a companies sales rep. What was really interesting for me, is that many of these businesses hadn’t identified is that customers have to be at the centre of their business and marketing. This was a new concept for many along with customer lifetime value, the concept of owning a customer for life not just one transaction.
Differentiate or Die
Customers will choose on price when they can’t see a difference between your product /service and a competitors. The biggest point of difference for many businesses is a customer centric approach. Taking an outside in approach to all activities through the lens of the customer. This is a point of differentiation that is hard to replicate. According to Forrester “80 % of businesses believe they deliver an excellent customer experience but only 8% of customers agree.” And as Ranjay Gulati explains “it would be hard to find a CEO who would tell you that his or her firm isn’t customer-centric already. And that’s exactly where mass delusion begins for most companies.” So most companies think they are differentiating by providing excellent service but in reality their customers don’t think so.
No Longer a Numbers Game
Marketing Successful marketing is no longer about who can scream the loudest about their products. Marketing is no longer a numbers game, it is a relevance game. Marketing has become understanding the customers behaviours have changed and how to engage them with their preferences. Now to get the customer’s attention businesses have to evolve their approach to be customer centric. This requires a mindshift for many organisations and has to start at the top and filter all the way through the culture. When you think about it, it is hard to go from thinking about your business for the last 10-15 years, your products to the customer if it is not what you are use too. We do what is comfortable and easy and it is hard to embrace change.
Customer Centric the new Game Changer
What exactly does being customer centric mean? It means putting the customer at the centre of your business. It means being useful, helpful and a partner in their buying journey. This of customer centricity has been fueled by customers having access to more information, better communication tools which has empowered them to make decisions without the need to consult with a seller in a business. This shift has out out played the traditional sales representative and left him floundering.
Who are your ideal customers?
Most businesses say “any one with a pulse”, but in fact we know that is not true. There are only certain customers that you serve best. Only some that are great to deal with and highly profitable. These are the customers you want to build your business around, not everyone. Profiling your customers and identifying who is a fit and who isn’t has many benefits not to mention it makes it easier to attract these customers and market to them.
Customer centric culture
Being customer centric needs to be driven across the entire company. It is a culture that focuses on the customer. You can’t fake it. The starting place for developing a customer centric orientation is to start with customer feedback. Understand what your customers wants and needs are. How can you serve them better? To embed the customer and the passion for being helpful, useful and delightful you need to have passion for this within your values. It also needs to be recognized and rewarded so it is visible and embraced by all staff.
Customer Journey Mapping
A great way to start the process of orientating your business around the customer is to map out the journey your ideal customer takes when engaging with you. What are the delightful moments and potential opportunities for disappointment? By doing this with your entire staff you can start the process of thinking like your customers. It is important to understand that every touch point along your customers journey is important to manage. Responsive, active, engaged Everyone has those times when we have been disappointed by an experience, but now we are likely not only to tell our friends but also tweet it, put it on Facebook or leave a review online as a way of venting. While some businesses fear that transparency, those that embrace it and take action when things go wrong (as they will) are likely to win more fans than they loose if they show that they care.
There is nothing like seeking feedback from your customers. They are the custodians of your brand. They can tell you why they choose you or ignore your offering. By having your customers input captured as often as you can, you can ensure that you are creating real value. Being able to collaborate with customers is the new frontier of transforming cutting edge companies. Some include customers in their boardrooms, have persona profiles and do mystery shopping but whatever the role, having customers as part of your business is vital.
Sponsor customer initiatives
The best way to build a customer orientation is to create room for it. Sponsoring customer initiatives have become more recognized. Examples of customer initiatives happen all the time. Here are some examples of how companies are making my life easier:
• Wipes at Woolworths for the trolleys
• Colour coding and personalizing your banking online
• Using your mobile number instead of carrying loyalty cards
• Sending a reminder for flight the night before and allowing me to check in on my mobile • Emailing me the latest release from my favorite author
The Future of Marketing
If you continue to market and sell using a product centric model you will be ignored as part of the customers buying journey. It is time to shift to an approach that lets the customer guide the experience. Buyers will continue to become more knowledgeable and social. They are now embracing mobile technologies and connecting with tools that allow them to amplify their opinions. This is no time to be a dinosaur, it is time to a line your business to your customers journey. There is more tools to listen, pre-empt and provide delightful experiences than ever before, you just have to create the environment and mission around your customers needs.