Your Business is Customer Centric – Yeah Right!

Ineffective websites – not talking the language of customers

Most businesses in NZ suck at marketing.  They under invest in sales activities and in many cases waste marketing spend creating campaigns, websites and newsletters that do not appeal to their target audience.

Too often the “just do it” drive and focus on “pretty” means businesses do not take the time to extract a powerful core message, “story” and purpose to drive their business and marketing campaigns. All this results in what I call “crap in – crap out” marketing and business planning. Evident by the number of company web sites that have weak selling messages and non- focused businesses selling to everyone.

What I am suggesting is slow down long enough to analyse your customers world and re-purpose your business on what’s important – your customer.

Most web design companies do not have the capability to extract your core marketing messages; they lack the breadth of business and market knowledge. Like any process the better the input  (the design brief) the better the output – you need to own the brief.

When asked – most if not all businesses will proclaim they are customer centric.  If you asked all of your staff “what does our business do?”, how many unprompted would mention the problem you solve for your customers vs how you solve it or what your core “craft” is.

An emphatic focus on the customer and solving their pain is crucial element of all business success.

Ask a business that creates software, what sort of business they are and they will invariably come back with “we are a software company”.  This is not surprising, given they spend most of their life thinking and creating software products.  The reality is their customers do not care at all about the software, they primarily care about what the software does for them (how they measure success).  No matter what your craft is whether it’s: software, science, baking cakes or fixing bicycles it is never about your craft for the purchaser.  Your customers are primarily interested in WIFM (what’s in it for me) and that will include how they measure success.
In the B2B environment more often than not customers want increased sales, productivity or cost reduction. In the B2C place in many cases it comes back to some form of “experience”. What pain or problem are you solving for your customer? What is your customer’s measure of success?

 Successful businesses base all their business activities around solving customer problems, continually reference and reinforce their key selling points and how their customers measure success.

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Make sure your web sites lead story is about solving the customer’s problem and the outcome they get, rather than how you solve it. Use the language of your customer not your internal how we do it language. Once you hook them with the what, then tell them how, not before.

Don’t forget the three most power tools for communicating customer success are: customer stories, contrast (with and without your product) and quantifying the outcome they get.

The better and more succinct the definition of your customer pain and your solutions outcome, the more powerful your marketing and other business activities will become.

Suffering “the curse of knowledge”, we are simply to close and pre-occupied with how we solve the problem, to articulate the new buyer trigger points. My suggestion is get a 3rd party who understands your craft to help unravel the customer need, to create a better creative briefs and core purpose to drive business activities.

This focus on customer equally works for your business planning and day to day operations. You can use the power of a succinct purpose to empower your staff to make better decisions on the fly.  Remember the Williams Formula One Team mantra – we make the car go faster. Any one on the team can make decisions on the spot: does this activity make the car go faster? Then lets do it!

 How does your business stack up?

 Customer centric test:

  1. Does your website use your customer’s language (outcomes) or yours? (Features or benefits)
  2. Do you begin customer discussions with how you will solve, rather than the problem or outcome?
  3. Have you asked current customers, Particularly repeat customers, why they buy from you? Have you included their response in your messaging?
  4. Do you use the customer problem to help decide what you do and don’t do in your business?
  5. If any of your staff were asked what do you do – will they give a customer centric response?
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Strategies for Growth

To get market traction – we need to choose ONE strategy and do it well…

Growth in a business comes from either selling more to our existing customers or getting more customers. Either way we need to gain a position of strength and differentiation to grow our business.

In the jungle economy, if we are not growing and taking some one else’s customers, they will take ours. Equally so we have finite resources, so must choose a small list of things to do and do them well.

How do you get to “own your customers” i.e be the supplier of choice?

Too many businesses attempt plans that are incompatible with their balance sheet, their personal circumstance or even reality or worst still a potpourri of every possible strategy. My recommendation is choose one.

 Strategy Primer Questions

Strategic planning is about exploring and debating options in an iterative loop.  Before working out how to win customer mindshare you need to define what is your target market. A key step in this iterative cycle is to decide where long-term opportunities exist.

  • What is your long-term market opportunity?  Have you explored what’s going on in your industry ecosystem? What facts do you have that support your market will exist in 2 or 5 years time?
  • What is you competitive advantage or point of difference?  Is it a truly sustainable competitive advantage?  Do you have the skills to deliver this?
  • What is your strategy to maximise your competitive advantage?

Next you need to work out how you will get to “own your customers mind”, i.e begin your growth – to create a change in the market place.

 Unfortunately in the real world, we do not have unlimited resources – so despite ambitious intentions, we do need to make some choices of what do we do first and what takes priority. Most SME’s can only afford to invest (people & money) in one strategy at a time.

Strategic Priorities & Restraints:

  • What is your key strength?   Product, operational excellence (process) or customer intimacy
  • What is your no.1 priority? –  Market Share or Profit or Revenue (Prioritise these options)
  • What market segments are you going to take on and in what order? (geography, demographic, etc)
  • Have you got the make / buy split correct? Where do you add most value to your clients & yourself (who will you partner with).  Are some of your business activities a major distraction and not make you any money?

WIN THE RACE to OWN YOUR CUSTOMER’S MIND: – Choose one  

Strategy guru Michael Porter was of the belief that you only have two options to gain strength in a market Cost leadership or Differentiation.   

Winning market reach & share quick

  • Freemium (give your product or a cut down product away for free)– do a land grab then start charging or kick in alternative revenue streams later eg trademe
  • Partner with large organization – preferably corporate challengers rather than the giant that already has the customer, as they can up sell something “additional” to them (your product or service). Note Giants are typically too arrogant and do not need you
  • Merge – with other small players to increase efficiency and customer reach

Win the technology/product innovation race

  • Create products that others do not have and your customers will lust after – that have amazing customer pull eg killer apps
  • You may need to use a strong IP strategy that can not be worked around (trade secret) and patents or simply just obsolete your own products with new ones so people can not copy  (eg Apple, Microsoft)
  • In the services space this race is often influenced  with “thought leadership”

Create / Find a new market

  • Legislation change
  • Disruptive technology – new product paradigm eg MP3 players – ipod
  • Use existing technologies in a new way

Win the cost race

  • Make your product cheaper than all others. Organisational and cost efficiencies.
  • Warning – making products cheaper does not mean start a price war. Price wars in most cases become a race on who can hold their breath the longest.

Win the heart – BRAND

  • Build a brand experience people fall in love with – this may include service paradigm

What is your strategy to capture the mind of your customers?  – Is it one of the ones listed above or do you have another? Please share.

If you want a hand generating your strategy, how about coming along to a Business Dominoes workshop? We have just started running 3 day workshops that take in a weekend day, so you can have some tools to take on summer holiday.