Getting to Know Your Customers
Published on 06 July 2012
Do you want the truth? What your customers value most is changing constantly. Nobody knows this better than Jaynie L. Smith, best selling author and CEO of marketing and management consulting firm Smart Advantage (www.smartadvantage.com). Smith spent the last 10 years analyzing data from more than 100 businesses to learn why customers buy particular products or services from particular companies. Her conclusion: 90 percent of the time, most businesses do not know their customers’ top values. In fact, many are shocked to learn just what is at the top of their customers’ value list. The good news: Smith says businesses that become relevant by addressing what their customers really value at any given time will be the first ones out of the recession. To help you get on track, she offers the following advice.
Customers usually are looking for “how” things are sold, not “what” For most products, any number of suppliers exists. If someone wants to buy a camera or a car, he can visit the nearest store or order it online. But he doesn’t. Why? Because there’s something else he values more than the product itself (think product durability, the brand’s reputation for customer service or safety features). If you don’t value what you bring to your customer, he won’t value it either. Because few companies know how to effectively articulate what differentiates them, price often becomes the tiebreaker.
Understand that existing customers and prospects usually have different valuesSmart Advantage’s research analysis shows that, 70 percent of the time, customers and prospective customers differ in what they value most. When that happens, your message to your customers should be different than your message to your prospects. Few companies make this distinction in their sales and marketing messaging. Existing customers may have come to depend on your top-notch help desk. It’s what they’ve grown to value most about your company. Prospective customers haven’t used your help desk yet, so they don’t know how essential this benefit is.
Use what you learnIf you find your customers value speedy responses when they have a problem, and your customer service department is slow, fix your customer service now. Tell your customer service team that your customers rate fast response time their No. 1 priority. When you have stats you can brag about – brag away. Now you’ve used that information in two valuable ways: to make your company more relevant to customers, and to let customers know you have what they want.
Invest in disciplined customer researchResearch data collection costs have decreased 30 percent to 35 percent during the last few years and now are affordable to smaller companies. Double-blind customer market research is the gold standard and worth the expense. But it’s not feasible for everybody. Remember: Even a small investment in research can reap huge returns. Some less-expensive and free alternatives do exist to help find what your customers want. They include sharing the expense with an industry association, partnering with an organization that needs the same information or a peer who doesn’t compete with you, hiring a college intern, or creating an online survey using a free basic service such as Survey Monkey.