10 Ways To Tell If You’re Customer Centric: And What To Do If You’re Not

Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we’ve made to date on our annual plans, be they personal or professional. Having finally completed the “nth” revision of my latest book, it seemed to me to be the perfect occasion to review what I wanted to achieve in the remaining six months.

And this got me thinking about how organisations too need to take a step back and review how their plans are going. What changes do they need to make to ensure they meet their objectives over the coming six months of the year. So here are my ten ways to tell if you have succeeded in adopting a customer-first strategy and what actions you can still take to get even further along your journey to customer-centricity.

#1. You’ve correctly identified the category in which you are competing

This may sound strange to you, but many brands are not competing in the category in which they think they were. By that, I mean that sometimes the category has changed, and sometimes the usage customers are making of their product or service has changed. Either way it’s important to know and understand where you are no competing.

Think for example dried packet soups. They are now a meal replacement, a drink, an ingredient of a meal, no longer just a quick and simple way to make soup. Or what about tablets and laptops. They are used for work, for email, for keeping up with social media and as an entertainment platform. Not every brand and format competes in all of these, so if you manufacture them, you’d better know how your customers are using your product.

Suggested actionSuggested action: Review how your product or service fits into your customers’ daily lives, as well as how they compare and decide between options before purchasing. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.

 

#2. You understand the best group to target

Example of completed BCG MatrixKnowing precisely who the customer is for each of your brands or business, is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group.

The very simple example on the left shows an example of its use of defining a target group for a new chocolate bar. Based upon the number of consumers in each age group and their average consumption, it is clear that men 18-35 y.o. are the most attractive.

The power of this tool, which was first developed in 1968 and since amended and improved by GE and McKinsey, lies in its simplicity and flexibility. You can use a multitude of factors for each axis and even weight them by importance for you or the customer. I believe that this is why it is still in use today.

Suggested actionSuggested action: Review the audience you are currently targeting for each of your brands and check that you have all possible information on their “4Ws” – that’s the Who, What, Where and Why. Continue Reading

The 5 Essential Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Business Success

One of the best ways I know to understand your customers is to watch and listen to them whenever you can. Customer observation is a powerful, but unfortunately an under-utilised tool these days. So when was the last time you got intimate with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week or two, you’re not getting out enough!

Before going on, I should explain that I use the word “customer” to describe the person who buys and / or uses your product or service. For the B2B business, the recommendations in this article are still valid, but would be of particular value when you work with your supplier or retailer, to help them to better know their own customers.

It is, therefore, not surprising that most companies run to conduct market research when they want to know something about their customers. They then (hopefully) invite relevant employees from marketing, sales, packaging, communications or R&D to watch the interviews or group discussions. However, this intense but short observation is likely to do more harm than good.

Let me explain.

Have you ever gone to watch a focus group only to discover that the research confirms your hypotheses? I bet you felt disappointed and even a little irritated that you “wasted” money on the project weren’t you? Well, this may actually be the result of your very own selective listening and interpretation. You watched and listened only to the topics that interested you. You were looking for confirmation of your hypothesis. But there was so much more you could have understood if only you had bothered to listen.

True understanding comes from regular interaction with your customers, not just from an infrequent observation or two. Here are some ideas on how to do this more effectively.

Make customer observation everyone’s job

There are many, many opportunities for every employee in an organisation to come into contact with their customers. In a customer-centric organisation, everyone has annual objectives which include connecting with customers on a regular basis. This could be by:

  • listening to calls at the care centre
  • reading posts on social media and message boards
  • participating in / watching promotions, demonstrations, sampling in retail outlets
  • joining market research fieldwork

Some organisations also make a habit of getting their employees to watch and listen to their customers in direct observation or connection sessions. However, these need to be managed carefully in order to avoid people jumping too quickly to incorrect conclusions, as I’ll explain in more detail below.

If you’d like to know more about running successful connection sessions in your own organisation, I can help.  Please contact me for more information about our 1-Day training sessions.

 

Customer observation is not as easy as it looks!

There is a very well-known example of the challenge of observation, in a video showing two teams of young people passing a couple of balls around. If you haven’t seen it you can check out the  Awareness Test and try it for yourself. Continue Reading

Three Clever Ways to Know the Competition Better

What is the secret to success in business? That’s easy! It’s how well you know the competition.

Alright, maybe this is a slightly over-simplified perspective, but it always surprises me how many companies work with a primarily internal focus.

I have written many posts about knowing your customers, such as “Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions).” Watching and listening to them in order to fully understand their rational needs and emotional desires is a great – and free! – way to start.

But today I would like to speak about doing exactly the same thing for your competitors. If you are going to succeed in attracting their customers away from their products and services, then it would make sense to know them as well as you do your own.

Here’s a simple three-step process to do so. 

 

Encourage employees to use competitive products & services

Know the competition better by trying their products and services.In most organisations today, using competitive products is still frowned upon; after all, we make the best don’t we, so why use those of other companies?

However to challenge and beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against. Regular contact with competitive products will encourage your employees to evaluate your own offering. They will also be encouraged to suggest competitors’ strengths and weaknesses that were perhaps not evident before. It will also ensure that you are rapidly aware of any improvements made by the competition. You won’t get left behind and find yourself suffering from declining sales due to competitive improvements of which you are unaware.

This intimacy with competitors’ products and customers should be requested of employees at all levels, by being one of their annual objectives. Of course, in some industries this might not be possible, due to the selective nature of the product or service, but certainly for most consumer products and service companies, this can easily be done on a regular basis.

Now encouraging people to use competitive products is easy to say, but you should also be prepared to invest in it, by paying for your employees to experience them. It would be unfair, and would certainly be resented, if your people had to spend their own money to make such experiences. This knowledge gathering should be seen as an investment by your organisation, of at least equal value to offering your employees discounts on your own products and services.

Why don’t you start a similar process and add these experiences to everyone’s annual objectives? It’s a great way, and a free one at that, to know the competition better than you do today.

 

Make a Library of Competitive Products and Material

KNow your competition better by sharing what you knowIn one of my previous positions, the company had an incredible competitive library. This included every single competitive product that was available from all around the world, classified by country and organised by segment.

Everyone found this library extremely useful, especially when discussing such topics as shelf impact, packaging or in trying to understand our competitor’s portfolio strategy. Continue Reading

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want me to catalyse your growth and profitability, just book a call.

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