“The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become… and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.”
- John Russell, President of Harley Davidson, Inc.
Now, we’re in the business of b2b branding and marketing - not in the business of making motorbikes - but whether it’s bikes, branding or book-keeping, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to convince new customers that you have what they need, unless you clearly understand who you’re talking to and what they want.
What we’re talking about today aren’t whizz-bang CRM tools – yes they’re exciting and packed full of awesomeness, but they’re another story for another day. What we’re talking about today are easily-implemented, tech and non-tech, low-cost ways of identifying your customer's needs.
Let’s take a look:
1. Staple yourself to a customer’s order
Ouch! Not literally. IBM sends senior teams from different disciplines (not just sales) into the field to meet their customers and develop a deep understanding of their needs. Other companies track key customers’ experiences as they interact with different parts of the business. Others listen in at their call centres. All these are great examples of ways you can understand why people are coming to you, as well as getting a glimpse of the reality of interacting with your business.
2. Get your sales (and customer service) teams a-sleuthing
We heard of an envelope manufacturer who asked each of his sales people to complete a 66-question profile of every single customer. They didn’t have to complete it in one hit, but the idea was that over time they built a detailed picture of each customer and what they expected from their supplier.
Sound like an idea? (Maybe you want to aim for a few less than 66!) While your teams are at it, don’t forget to find out about the questions your customers are asking – in particular the ones that seem to be the hardest to answer. These will tell you a great deal about how you can best help them solve their business problems.
This type of approach can be as high-tech or low-tech as you make it: either way it’s simple, non-intrusive, and worth its weight in gold.
3. Ask for feedback wherever you can
Whether it’s a one-off questionnaire or an ongoing customer satisfaction survey, it makes sense to ask your customers how you’re doing. (Yes, even the unhappy ones! Wasn’t it the legendary Bill Gates who said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”?). Not only will this tell you how they feel about you, but it will also tell you more about them, their priorities and pain points.
4. Start looking at your web analytics
This is another one that can be as simple or as complex as you make it. We’ll talk more about this in a later post, but Google analytics will show you where your traffic is coming from and what search terms your visitor used to get to your site. Visitor tracking on your own site opens up a whole new world of understanding around what presses your customers’ buttons.
5. Ask your customers what they want to know more about
If you don’t think you know your customer’s burning issues, just ask. Use telemarketing to find out what issues are bothering your market right now. Offer opportunities to “Ask the experts” (every company has one!). Pop a search box on your site to understand what your visitors are searching for. And ask your customers at every available opportunity: not only will it provide you with the knowledge you need, your customers will like the fact that you’re trying to understand their business.
6. Don’t forget events!
Remember, events and trade shows are a great opportunity to better understand your customers and their needs, first-hand.
7. Listen to what your customers are talking about in other places
Social media groups, industry forums, analysts, experts and publications can all provide valuable insights into the hot topics that are keeping your customers awake at night. Keep a regular eye on them or – if you’re feeling tecchy - use social listening tools to monitor what’s being said.
Understanding your customer is an essential part of marketing. It helps to know how your customer understands your brand. Download our free Brand Archetype eBook now.