You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are! (How to Find Out)

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Many of you know my 7-step CatSight™ Process for Insight Development. The first step is to identify the category in which you are competing. I get so many questions about this step that I decided to dedicate a whole post to this important topic.

But before I start, I suggest you first read the post (“Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor, Insights its Foundation”) as background. You will also find the description of the seven steps of the CATSIGHT™ process included. In the article, I summarise the very first step of Insight development, that of category definition, like this:

C = Category

Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. This may seem obvious to you, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might think.

Identify the category by zooming inFor instance, suppose you are planning on launching a new fruit-flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks. But rather than just assuming the category in which you are competing, I highly recommend that you check; you may be very surprised.

In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink!

The reason was that this category is seen as being for lively, energetic, fun-loving people who need a boost. Whether this comes from the caffeine of an energy drink, or from the added vitamins and minerals which was my client’s offer, it didn’t seem to matter.
If we’d only looked at other fruit-flavoured soft drinks, we would have missed a whole – and much larger – segment of category consumers. By starting our analysis by looking at all beverages and then slowly zooming in as we learnt more, we were quickly able to discover this perhaps surprising positioning for the new drink.
This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment. 
The above example is a great start. But so many clients ask me to help them with their own category definitions, I decided to share the five most important steps so you can do it for yourself:

 

Step 1. What is the category definition you are currently using? 

In any process, we should always start by identifying where we are today. In the case of your category definition, it should be the one you think you are competing in at the moment. Depending upon whether you are offering a product or service, you might define it as:

All hot beverage consumers …….. or …….. users of a particular insurance service.

All consumers of coffee …….. or …….. people who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

All consumers of instant coffee powder …….. or …….. house owners in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

All consumers of instant coffee powder costing less than US$ 2.50 per 100 gms …….. or …….. owners of houses valued over US$2 million in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

As you can see from just these four examples, the bottom definitions are far more focused than the top ones. Hopefully you can appreciate why targeting such precise groups of customers is more likely to meet with greater success, than the wider, less specific first groups mentioned.

In any process, we should always start by identifying where we are today. #Process #Category #Business Click To Tweet

The Zoom tool you decide to use (in or out), will depend upon whether you are looking to grow your brand through your marketing activities or planning to develop a new product or service offer.

I call this zooming in and zooming out of the category. In general, understanding the category by zooming in is best for growth and precise targeting, whereas zooming out provides more opportunities for considering innovative new products and services.

Now take a look at your own current category definition. I bet it’s too broad for successful use isn’t it? This is the mistake that most businesses make, big and small. They want to attract the largest number of consumers or users of a category, but as is often quoted:

“If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no-one”

The more precise you are in defining the group of customers you are trying to attract, the more focused will be your actions and communications, and the more successful you will be. In addition, the tactics and strategies you use are more likely to resonate with your target audience.

The more precise you are in defining the group of customers you are trying to attract, the more focused your actions and communications will be. #Segment #Category #Marketing #CEX Click To Tweet

 

Step 2. How is this category changing?

Once you have identified the precise category in which you are playing, you next consider what is currently happening to it. Is it stable, growing or declining? And why?

Understanding how the category is changing and more importantly why, will help you to understand it better and will allow you to evaluate its attractiveness more precisely. For instance:

Is the category growing? If so, is it the leading brands which are increasing, or are there new brands that were recently launched, which explain the growth? Identifying which brands are growing and the reasons for this growth will enable you to take corrective action.

Is the category stable? Are category shares stable, or are some brands gaining and others losing? Again, why? What do the brands which are gaining have in common? What are the losing brands lacking? Are the changes making a difference to the category definition?

Is the category declining? Are all major brands in the category losing or are some gaining at the expense of others, but not maintaining overall category size? If so, What are the declining brands lacking? Where are customers who are leaving the category going to? Is there a new category which is better meeting their needs? If so, how? Should you be targeting this one instead?

Your answers to these questions will help you to understand whether the category in which you are currently competing is going to remain as attractive as it is today. 


Check out C3Centricity’s popular training course and speaking topics to help your team be more successful in their category definitions and target audience identification. Download the brochures.Download brochure of C3Centricity training


Step 3. How will this category change in the future?

In addition to current category trends, you also need to assess what is likely to happen in the marketplace in the coming years and how this may impact it.

Things are changing and changing fast these days. There is no more “business as usual” especially since the covid pandemic. Expecting the unexpected has become the norm, which is why I am such a big fan of scenario planning.

There is no more business as usual. Expecting the unexpected has become the norm, which is why I am such a big fan of scenario planning. #Scenarios #Business Click To Tweet

Industries are being disrupted and companies starting up and closing down at an ever-accelerating speed. According to a 2016  IMD article

“A recent study by McKinsey found that the average life-span of companies listed in Standard & Poor’s 500 was 61 years in 1958. Today, it is less than 18 years. McKinsey believes that, in 2027, 75% of the companies currently quoted on the S&P 500 will have disappeared.”

Of course, these numbers are likely to have changed significantly thanks to covid-19 and most certainly not for the better in most industries!

Understanding who and what will impact your category is the first step to preparing for the changes which could come. Preparing for likely future opportunities and risks is the second step, and the reason scenario planning is so vital to ongoing busines success.

75% of the companies currently quoted on the S&P 500 will have disappeared by 2027! @McKinsey #Business #Trends #Future Click To Tweet

 

Step 4. Which of the category users are you attracting?

This question surprises some people. They expect that once they have identified the category in which they are competing that they can just start trying to attract everyone in it. However as the infamous quote from John Lydgate mentions:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

You, therefore, need to identify which of the category users would be most interested in what you have to offer. One of the many tools I use with my clients to help them identify the best segment for their brand, is the attractiveness and ability to win matrix, sometimes referred to as the BCG Matrix.

You can find out more about it in the article “How to Sell Less to More People: The Essentials of Segmentation.” The post provides a detailed explanation of how to divide all category users into relevant sub-groups, which you can then plug into the BCG Matrix.

Understanding which sub-group of all the category users you are most likely to appeal to with your offer, is one further step in focusing on the very best target audience for your brand.

 

Step 5. How are your customers changing?

After identifying which category users would be / are the most attracted to your offer, you also need to consider how this sub-group is changing. Is it increasing or decreasing in size. And how and why it is changing.
 
As with the category changes mentioned above, it is important that you target a viable and hopefully expanding group of customers. This can either be a currently growing segment or one that you have serious reason to believe will grow in the future, thanks to positive trends and increasing customer sensitivities that you are following. If you find that the segment is growing or declining you may still consider developing a plan to attract customers who are switching out with a separate or new offer
There are many reasons why a segment may decline:
  • The introduction of a new category segment that is taking customers away from yours.
  • Natural decline because of customers’ ageing.
  • Behavioural changes that make the category less relevant than in the past.
Having identified how your customers are changing today, you then need to consider societal trends and their impact on your customers. That is the ultimate test to choosing the right group of category users to target.
 

Conclusion

Going through these five steps will give you the very best understanding of the category in which you are competing, as well as the customers who make up the sub-segment you decide to target.

Have you successfully mastered every suggested step? What have you forgotten?

Is there something I myself have forgotten or that you would add? If so, then please share your ideas in the comments below. Thanks

Are you struggling with your own category definition or the customers you should be targeting for your brand? Then let’s talk. Contact C3CentricityThis post is an update of the article first published on C3Centricity in 2017.

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Is it Time to Do Away with Market Research Departments?

What’s your gut response to the title question about eliminating Market Research Departments? Yes? No? It depends?

I am probably in the third camp. No, if it is a department that integrates and analyses information from multiple sources, and then delivers actionable insights and recommendations. Yes, if it is the traditional market research department. Let me explain.

Thanks to social media and websites, the IoT (Internet of Things) and smart products, companies are inundated with information these days. Who better than market research to help in its analysis? But in order to become this new business decision support group, new skills are required.

Insights 2020 by Kantar-Vermeer spoke about the need for researchers to have five critical capabilities:

  • Research & analytics mastery
  • Business acumen
  • Creative solution thinking
  • Storytelling
  • Direction setting

 

This research is now a few years old and the world is changing fast. A more recent study by BCG and GRBN resulted in an Invest in Insights Handbook to help organisations report on the ROI of the insights function. They found that those who measure their ROI have found a seat at the decision table, increased budgets, and more control. Those are the department objectives that the FMCG world in particular desires today, be they in a manufacturing or retail environment.

As the handbook mentions:

“Architecting a world-class Insights organization requires executive, cross-functional commitment/engagement”

To do this, they mention the following six points:

  • Vision & Pace
  • Seat-at-the-table and leadership
  • Functional talent blueprint
  • Ways of working with the Line
  • Self-determination
  • Impact and truth culture

The report concludes that:

“The biggest barriers to experimenting with innovation in CI are resources, both time and money. A lot of times there’ll be [a need for] an innovation project but it can’t find a home.”

Barriers to CI innovation

This seems to suggest, at least to me, a chicken and egg situation. Resources are insufficient because the business doesn’t see the benefit of investing in market research and insight. But the Market Research Department is struggling with insufficient budget and personnel to provide the support that they should – and often could – provide.

In the GRBN report, they mention the largest barriers to the measurement of the ROI of market research and insight. These were found to be:

  • Difficult to do – studies are used in many different ways
  • Difficulty in isolating impact of consumer insights
  • Time lag between insight delivery and business results

The secondary concerns are:

  • Consumer insights distant from business decision-makers
  • Business objectives not clearly defined
  • Insufficient staff to measure
  • Lack of alignment on important metrics

Looking at this list, it is clear that the market research profession is in need of a significant overhaul. Most local MR associations, as well as the global ESOMAR team are all very aware of this and have set up various groups to look into it. If you want to learn more about what they are doing, check out the discussions on the topic in last year’s ESOMAR conference in Amsterdam. You can also read a short commentary from System 1. Hopefully we will see changes coming out of all those debates in the coming years.

In the meantime, I decided to propose a few ideas to get your market research and insight departments moving in the right direction, no matter where you are today.

10 Steps to Reinventing Your Market Research Department

Here are the steps that I would suggest you take, should you wish to create or optimise your market research and insights function:

 

 

Step 1: If you already have a market research or insights department, then the GRBN / BCG self-assessment tool is a great place to start – and it’s FREE! The link is: http://insightsassessment.bcg.com/ . This will clearly indicate both what stage of development you are in, and what you can do to improve. Invaluable! Then all you have to do is to prioritise the changes needed!

Step 2:  Another assessment tool than can help you to better understand your customer understanding in its wider sense, is our  C3C Evaluator™. Again it is FREE; the link is: https://c3centricity.com/customer-centricity-mini-quiz-2. Unlike the insight assessment tool from BCG, this evaluator tool looks at insights as the motor or foundation to adopting a customer-first strategy. As such, it considers best-practice market research and insight development as a management decision support tool. Again, after your evaluation, you get a summary of what you need to change so you can prioritise your actions.

Step 3: Review the management’s needs in terms of information – besides the financial data they are certainly already receiving. Prioritise these and choose only the major KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to follow your business vision and strategy. For a truly customer-centric organisation these may include:

  • Market and category shares
  • Customer profiles
  • Brand image and brand equity metrics
  • Pricing, value perceptions and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value)
  • Distribution and OOS (Out-Of-Stock)
  • Awareness of communications
  • Understanding and appreciation of messages
  • Website and social media traffic, and conversion rates
  • Customer retention and churn rates
  • Sales funnel’s level distribution

Besides measuring your chosen metrics, trends often mean more than the numbers themselves – in many markets the numbers will be going up anyway. Although I have mentioned many examples above, remember that KPIs mean the metrics you choose must be KEY to your business. Choose wisely so you don’t drown people in data and information.

Step 4: Identify which of the metrics you already gather and which you need to start collecting perhaps on a more regular basis. Then review methodologies and suppliers for providing all the information. If you already conduct regular tracking studies, they should be opened for pitch every few years, to avoid both sides becoming complacent and stale.

Step 5: Once the metrics are agreed upon, turn them into a one-page summary or dashboard. Most executives don’t have time for more than a rapid scan of information, so find ways to help them to read it. Using traffic-light colours, graphs and one-number indices all help them to quickly understand the current situation and identify any needed actions.

Step 6: In addition to data, management will also require information about the market, its customers, competitors and retailers. This can be gathered through observation and listening, whether in person or through market research qualitative studies. Read “Five rules of observation and why it’s hard to do effectively.” for more on the topic.

Step 7: Improving your data and information collection coming from market research will depend upon a solid briefing document. The brief should be developed in collaboration between the internal client and the market research department. It must include at a minimum why the information is needed, by when and why. For more on better briefing, read “Why Marketing doesn’t Always Get the Research it Needs, But Usually What it Deserves.”

Step 8: Identify how to measure the ROI of your service. The importance of a detailed brief cannot be overemphasized. It will not only allow good work to be done so the business gets the answers it needs. It also allows the measurement of its ROI. Knowing how the information will be used and the value of the decisions made from it, will go a long way towards proving its value. If this is only considered in retrospect, it is unlikely to meet with agreement from all concerned parties. Therefore these need to be discussed and included in your briefing document.

Step 9: The next step is to build a team of supporters within the organisation with whom you regularly share all the nuggets you learn from your different analyses. Beyond answering the questions for which any research was conducted, there are always additional learnings which can be invaluable to share. Unfortunately most Market Research Departments are so stretched that they spend most of their time behind their desks.

Even if it is just in the corridor, or during a coffee or lunch break, always have something interesting to share with your internal clients. This will quickly build respect and the MR team will be seen as an invaluable source of business understanding. Of course, this does mean that the department should be involved in business meetings, but this tends to naturally come when you start sharing more than market research presentations and reports.

Step 10: The final step in optimising your market research department is to start developing insights. Although I mention this last, the 7-step insight development process I suggest to my clients involves data and information gathering only at step 6. And yet this is the one thing most MR departments are seen to do.

The reason why I mention insight development last here, is because an organisation must believe in the need for a deep understanding of their customers before it can start to develop insights about them. Otherwise its market research department will remain simply a data-gathering group. For more details about the C3Centricity insight development process, read “Customer centricity is today’s business disruptor, Insights are its foundation.”

 

 

Et voila! The first ten steps that I believe will help all organisations upgrade their market research departments. If nothing else, at least try to complete the two assessment tools. They will give you a terrific start to understanding just how good – or bad – you are today!

If you need help in upgrading your market research and insight department or processes, then check out our inspiring website content, especially our training offers, and then contact me here: http://c3centricity.com/contact

 

 

Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions)

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Last week I asked whether it is employees or customers who are more important to an organisation. If you missed it read “Customers Care About a Product’s Value, Not How the Company Treats Employees” now and catch up.

I knew it would be a provocative question but I still didn’t expect quite so many comments! So this week I decided to be just as provocative and talk about the issues that challenge many businesses. And where the answer to whatever problem they have is actually quite simple. For me, customers are the answer! They can either answer or help you overcome any challenge or issue you may have.  Read on and then let me know if you agree.

 

How can I innovate more successfully?

 
According to an excellent article by Harvard Professor Dr Srini Pillay “Humans have a natural aversion to innovation because it involves a healthy dose of uncertainty and risk.”
 
 
Unfortunately, we try to reduce this risk by referencing past events to help us to predict the probability of our future success. Dr Pillay concludes that possibilities rather than probabilities are more likely to lead to better results.
 
I would concur with this statement, as the world is changing too fast to rely on past events as a predictor of anything in the future. This is why I say that customers are the answer!
 
It is only by getting closer to our customers and being constantly curious, that we have any chance of increasing our success in satisfying them.
 
It therefore makes sense that we involve our customers in helping us innovate. Not as a judge of concepts, which is what many businesses do. This is wrong because we know that consumers don’t know what they want, at least not until they see it.
 
However, they do know what their pains are; what is wrong with a product or service and what they would rather have. Co-creation and in fact ongoing conversations with our customers is the only way to stay ahead of the game.
 
In another article, this time in the HBRHeitor MartinsYran Bartolomeu Dias and Somesh Khanna from McKinsey shared the results of numerous interviews they conducted in Silicon Valley, the home of US (tech) innovation.
 
They conclude that it takes many skills and cultural changes for most organisations to become more innovative. These include:
  • Audacity and grit: The determination to continue despite failure. And I would add the acceptance of failure and the license for employees to fail too.
  • Strong leadership and true collaboration: An inspiring vision and the tenacity to make it happen – together.
  • Give employees autonomy. We all need meaningful work. The chance of helping an organisation grow is what motivates top employees. That and the freedom to make decisions based on clear goals but without directive processes on how to meet these objectives.
  • Build platforms, not products. This may be the hardest for many organisations to grasp. Giving your customers the opportunity to decide what and how they use what you produce, and how it should be changed is the route to success. Networks and co-creation are the future that is already here. And customers are the answer!
 
  • Think like engineers and customers. Everyone in an organisation should be encouraged to look at problems from the customer’s perspective. It always amazes me how we seem to “take off our consumer hat” when we arrive at our place of work!
  • Know that money only gets you so far. Innovation has a much shorter shelf-life than it used to. In fact, best-in-class organisations have a continuous process ingrained in their culture.
  • Get acquisitions right. Many companies are looking for acquisitions for a way to quick-start their innovation. But it is difficult to get the timing right. The current value is good but potential growth is better.
 
The article concludes with an interesting comment that it is “leadership in business model innovation that offers the deepest and most transformational insights.” I would add it’s our customers too!
 
If innovation is a challenge for you and you know your process is not optimal, then you might like to read “Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.”

Where do I find out what issues my brand has?

You’re measuring your sales and hopefully the trend is upwards. You’re following your distribution and hopefully it’s expanding. You’re calculating your profits and hopefully those are also rising. What else are you doing to follow your brand?
 
You would be amazed at just how many brand managers stop there! Even those in major CPG companies! It’s not enough. You know nothing about your customers! Your forecasts are based on outdated information from the past. (and if you didn’t skip to this point but read the previous one, you know why that’s insufficient)
 
The health of your brand and a good estimate of at least its short-term future comes from your work with customers. From brand image and equity,   to co-creation and observation, your customers are the answer.
 
Brand image and equity measurements are vital for helping you to understand what current and potential clients think about your brand. If you want to learn more about the topic then read “What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes.”
 
There is an additional bonus in following your brand image and that is that it acts as an early-warning signal. This is because it almost always starts to decline before your sales do!
 
The reason for this is that we are creatures of habit, retailers included. Change is difficult as a decision has to be made. So we tend to continue with the same products and services until something important happens. Important in the eye of the customer that is.
 
It may be a new brand introduction, a price promotion, bad publicity or negative comments on social media. If these are important enough to customers then they may decide to change brands. And if this impacts a lot of customers, the sales decline can be fast and significant.
 
Better therefore to follow your image as well as comments on social media.
 
Social media platforms can provide a wealth of information about your brand. Of course, different people adopt different platforms for different uses. Pew Research ran a useful analysis in their Social Media Update 2016 of the demographic similarities and differences of channels in the US. It is definitely worth a read to understand these differences, as well as to identify the best platforms for your own brands.
 
Another good source of social media statistics is from Smart Insights. Their “Global social media research summary 2017” combines information from numerous sources and provides a global perspective.
 
The sort of information that can be gathered from social media includes:
  • Natural vocabulary used by your customers.
  • Issues customers have with products and services, often in real time.
  • Trending topics of interest; use trend alerts rather than the keyword tool from Google, which is slower to update.
  • Regional or country differences from topic frequencies.
 
Observation and listening in person can provide extra benefits that social media can’t. The two information sources are thus complementary. In fact, I would consider them to be the best way to identify brand issues, long before running any market research surveys. For more on best practices in customer closeness sessions, check out “Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.” 
 
 

How can I grow my brand more profitably?

As you know there are basically only three ways to grow your business:

  • Get more customers to buy.
  • Get customers to buy more.
  • Get customers to buy more frequently
 
You will see that all three ways involve the customer; of course, they do! As you know, one of my favourite quotes says “There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers.” If you still haven’t understood the message, your customers are the answer to everything!
Just think about that for a moment, please. A simple but profound statement, don’t you think? Therefore, your customer is the solution to your business growth and profitability.
 
Speaking of which, sometimes a business is growing but has done so by slashing prices and being on constant promotion. This doesn’t grow your brand, it demolishes it! Both its value and reputation! Read more about this and head the warning in “Are you on the Way to Brand Heaven or Hell?”
 
A far better way to grow more profitably is to understand the value that you offer to your customers. This is done through a PSM (price sensitivity measurement), a price trade-off study (BPTO) or similar survey. These will provide you with the information you need to understand your customers’ perception of your value. Whether your price is too high or too low, you’re leaving money on the table and could be more profitable. 
 

 

Why is market research not enough to understand my customers?

There are so many reasons why running market research is insufficient to really know and understand your customers and your business. I don’t know where to start, but here are a few reasons I’ve come up with (please add your own in the comments box below):
  1. Projects are sample based.
  2. They are at best snapshots of current opinions and behaviours.
  3. The information can quickly become outdated.
  4. They ask questions.
  5. They have limited focus.
  6. People don’t tell the truth.
  7. People don’t know why they do what they do.
  8. Results are extrapolated.
  9. Results are open to interpretation.
 
I could go on and on with this list – and again feel free to add further ideas in the comments below – but you get the idea.
 
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of market research. BUT done by experts. Unfortunately, with the ease of connecting with people online and the simple survey platforms offered for free, it is easy for anyone to run a research project today.
 
It’s great that people see the benefit of surveys, but as this subtitle mentions, it’s not enough for truly knowing and understanding your customers. Also, if the reasons I gave above are not enough, there’s something else!
 
The biggest issue from my perspective is that understanding takes far more information than any single market research project can provide. Yes, it may deliver certain answers to a finite number of questions, but to understand your customer you need to get intimate.
 
I wrote a blog on just this topic which you might want to check out for a more detailed plan on getting to know your customers. It’s called “4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding.”
 
 

Why are customers always the answer?

There are many organisations that understand the importance of the customer and yet still hesitate to start walking the talk of customer centricity. If you’re one of them, then here are a few statistics that should convince you  – and your bosses – of their importance:
  • Customer centric organisations are 60% more profitable. (Source)
  • The average revenue growth of Customer Experience Leaders is 14% points higher than that of the laggards. (Source)
  • 64% of people think that customer experience is more important than price in their choice of brand. (Source) 
I don’t think anyone can read those numbers and not be excited by the potential for growth. So what are you waiting for?

Conclusions

 
As you see, our customers can provide many if not all the answers to almost any question we may have about our businesses. After all, we are in business to make a difference to our customers lives in one way or another. So it is surprising that we still go looking for our answers elsewhere.
 
If I haven’t highlighted your main business challenge for 2017, then please add a comment below. I’m sure the customer will still be the answer – but prove me wrong!
 

If you’re ready to adopt a Customer First Strategy, book a free half-hour advisory session with me directly in my calendar, so we can go through your priorities and discuss solutions.

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