The Power of Customer
Peter Drucker famously declared that "the purpose of business is to create a customer". This relationship-centric viewpoint places the customer at the heart of everything that a business does. But how many companies actually embrace that idea? How many, instead, shift the focus inward and assume that the customer will naturally follow because they are a “great company” or they have a “great product”?
Recently, I’ve begun asking our clients a simple question when we start their branding projects: Why should a potential customer buy your product or service? The answer I get is usually along the lines of “we’re really good at what we do”, “we’re very experienced”, or “we do things in this particularly different/better way”. Notice that none of these really deal with the customer. The customer is an afterthought to the company or its product/service itself. Instead, imagine if the answer were this: we understand our customer’s pain points better than anyone else and we have a product/service that solves that pain point for them better than anything else on the market.
So what’s the difference and why is having a customer-centric business model important? From speaking with countless business owners and managers, one of the biggest challenges to growing your customer base, revenue, and profitability is knowing what marketing levers are available to you that make a meaningful impact on those metrics. You know that advertising, events, and promotions are important to your business. But in what way? What’s the message that you should be communicating to your customers and potential customers? When you have a customer-centric approach, these questions practically answer themselves.
Becoming a customer-centric company requires changing habits and getting the entire company on board with the new focus. How do you do that? It basically breaks down into 4 major steps:
Step 1: Develop your customer personas
This step requires getting out of your building and talking to your highest value customers and potential customers. You need to understand who they are, what pain points they’re experiencing, and why solving those pain points are important to them. This step will not only be the foundation for your marketing plan...done properly, it can be the foundation for your product development as well.
Step 2: Map your customer’s consumer journey
Once you know who your customers and potential customers are, you need to understand the consumer cycle they go through in order to make a buying decision (i.e., become a customer or repeat customer). The funnel model of managing your leads is giving way to the consumer journey model of managing relationships. The challenge to you is that every industry and every customer group will have a map that looks somewhat different than the others. Knowing your customers intimately will help you determine what stages that journey should have and what they’re experiencing or thinking at each stage of that journey.
Step 3: Identify key touch points on their journey
After mapping your customer’s journey, you’ll have an understanding of what moves her from one stage to the next. Along those stages and at key inflection points, you’ll have the opportunity to communicate with your customer, develop a conversation, and influence their choice to purchase your product/service or that of your competitor at important touch points. Again, this process of identifying their touch points will depend heavily on what you uncover about them in Step 1.
Step 4: Create content to communicate or demonstrate your brand
You know who your high value customers are, you’ve built a well-defined map of their consumer journey, and you have a clear idea of touch points you can create channels of communication through. These 3 parts together give you a picture of the marketing levers that are available to you. Depending on what your business needs are at this point (grow leads, increase conversions, increase average sale, etc), you’ve identified the levers that you can pull to affect your business. Once you commit to a particular lever, you can create, deliver, and measure content that either communicates or demonstrates your brand and your product’s value proposition.
Of course, this isn’t the end of the plan. Once you’ve gone through all 4 steps, you need to evaluate the effectiveness of your message in moving the needle for the metric that matters most for your business. But now, instead of throwing marketing darts in the dark, you have a clear driver for all of your marketing efforts: your customer.