Putting the customer at the heart of your business is not something that sounds new to any of us. Of course we do that already, don’t we?
For example, we know everything about our target market and have a highly targeted marketing campaign that focussed especailly on that market. Not only that but we understand their pain and our product’s advertising is cleverly positioned to speak about their problems and how our product can solve their problems and make their lives easier.
We get it. We understand selling benefits. We even understand selling the benefit of the benefit. We don’t need another article spouting the same ‘Chapter 1 from a marketing book’ rubbish, thank you.
Marketing isn’t enough. Customer centric means more than that.
I’m going to make the assertation that most businesses are not really customer focussed at all. And to be fair, lots of successful business aren’t.
This is how most businesses start.
Someone has an idea. A great idea for a product. A few people get together and they think, yes, that’s great. Perhaps they even manage to find a potential market for that product and possibly capital to fund it. But the heart of the business is the product. Or service.
Let’s say I’m really good at design. I’ll be a web designer – everyone needs a website don’t they? Yes, they do and there are a lot of hugely successful web designers out there. But it’s still a business based on what I can do. Not what my customer actually wants.
But it works, doesn’t it?
Yes, in the past it worked well. But have you looked at how many web designers there are? Do we need any more? The issue is that we all have a lot of things and cheap services are easy to come by. Mass production and insane competition have led to saturated marketplaces and a struggle to make a living. Your fantastic product just might not make it.
Surely if I have no product, I have no business.
Yes. But it’s still possible to have a product and have no business. You need a product AND you need sales. And if you’ve got a product and no sales you’ve not only got no business, but you’ve probably lost a ton of money and time as well. There are no guarantees that anything you produce will sell, but surely to come from a genuine requirment from the market place makes it more likely to succeed?
The trick is to take your ‘thing’ or that thing you want to do and shape it until it plugs the gap in your market.
As usual, it’s starts with you and what you want to do: ‘I want to cook’ and ‘I want to do what I love, be my own boss and make a good living in the process’.
You notice that there are no restaurants in the local science park. All those offices, and no-where to eat. You are chuffed because you’ve spotted:
A gap in the market.
So, you open a restaurant. You spend ages making sure the food is locally souced and organic. The menu is amazing. You put your heart and soul into it. The restaurant is cozy and welcoming. You market properly. You leaflet all the offices on the park and have an opening day special offer at lunchtime.
Your idea fails. You don’t know why – don’t these people eat? A week later you spy a group of business men and women outside your premises; they are perusing your menu. Giddy with excitement of actual customers you head outside to engage them in conversation and entice them in:
“We have fish on special offer today, caught early this morning”
They don’t look all that convinced, so you wing it a bit:
“And dessert is thrown in free. It’s chocolate cake – home made.”
One man looks at his watch and a woman pipes up “Do you have WiFi?”
After a brief chat you have a reasonable idea of why they didn’t have lunch at your place. No-one has time for a meal away from the office. They all buy their lunch at Dave’s Dodgy Sandwich Van. Sure, the food’s disgusting but it’s quick and easy to eat in the conference room or at their desks.
The group outside your place was looking for a space out of the office to discuss a new project. They need an internet connection and space to make notes – the fact that it’s lunchtime is an irritating coincidence.
The gap in the market that was so obvious was actually a figment of your imagination.
But, now you have serious intel you can develop your business to fill a real need.
Remember your desire: I love to cook. And. ‘I want to do what I love, be my own boss and make a good living in the process’
The needs of your market: Good food to eat whilst working. And. Out of office conference space.
You change your model. You now take orders on a daily basis from the surrounding offices and deliver quality, healthy food right to the offices at lunchtime. Not three course meals but sandwiches with home made bread and fresh from the oven pasties.
You also turn your homely restaurant into clean, uncluttered office space. Set up wi-fi and invest in a projector and screen. You rent it out as conference space and provide the best coffee and lunch thrown in.
You don’t have to give up what you want to do, just need to spend time working out how to fit that to market needs.
Your skills and customers needs come together
Often that means looking deep at what you really want. For example you might think that you want to open a restaurant when really all you want to do is cook. You might want to be a web designer but really all you want to do is design beautiful things.
1. Take what you love to do and break it down into it’s simplest parts.
2. Think about a market and what they need. Ask them, don’t assume.
3. Creatively sidestep the obvious and answer the question. How can I do what I want, and am good at but also fill a genuine need as well.
Fulfilling a need is the other side of the coin to creating a benefit. And when your entire business is centred on creating a benefit some interesting things happen.
– Everyone is aligned. No more in-fighting between your technical department and your sales force. When your technical team is focussed on developing a product specifically to meet a need, there is no conflict or problem about benefits.
– Everyone has the same message. In fact your website, your brochure and your sales message is aligned because the benefit defines what you do and your message is clear.
– You become a better place to work. No more taking shortcuts to meet your own targets and causing problems with the customer. No more disgruntled employees because they were trying to sort out a customer instead of meeting internally imposed targets. Everything becomes aligned and your employees have a clear sense or priority and purpose.
Nothing is guaranteed
Whilst that’s true, making the customer the core of your business is a great place to start. And get everything right and you’ll have a business that is bound to convert.