Your answer should be EVERYWHERE! Your customer should be woven into everything you do. Where in business we used to think about Product, Price, Place, and Promotion we now need to think of what we do in terms of the customer. We can look at this in terms of what they want. How they view the value of what you offer. How they rate the convenience of what you offer and how you talk to them. In today’s fast paced world, it is all about the customer and it is my belief that how you choose to incorporate your customer into the way you do things is paramount to the success you can have. So, let’s take a look at how to answer those questions.

What does the customer want?

Companies used to create products and then find customers to buy them. But you can’t do that anymore. In today’s marketplace, you must go beyond asking customers for feedback to creating an open dialog with them. Here are some ways to create that dialog without having to spend a lot.

  • Social media groups – form groups on social media and invite your customers to join. This is a great place to post information, start discussions, and even use the survey functions available.
  • Conduct online surveys – there are free and low cost online services that allow you to create and distribute surveys.
  • Customer appreciation events – host events where you can start a conversation with customers to gather feedback while thanking them for their business.
  • Customer focus groups – host a small group of customers (6-10) to gather feedback on everything from price points to product features.

Once you have gathered an understanding of your customer, who they are and what their needs and wants are use that to tailor your product, service, or solution specifically for them. By understanding your customer’s specific needs and wants before you develop your product you will have an established market for that product before you even launch.

How they view the value of what you offer?

Price in dollars used to be the only factor companies considered when looking at what a product would cost the customer. In today’s marketplace, you need to understand that consumers measure many factors when evaluating costs.

  • They consider how much time they will have to spend to get your product. Can they order it online or do they have to drive to a store?
  • Once they get the product how long will it take them to be able to use it. Do they need to take training, spend time going over things, or can they just start using it?
  • What is the perceived value of your product to the customer? This can be very different for everyone.

Different types of customers view cost in different ways. You must make sure you understand how your customers view the cost of what you are offering.

How they rate the convenience of what you offer?

Location, location, location used to be king in marketing. But as more and more businesses offer their products and services without a brick and mortar location convenience plays a huge role in the purchase decision. Just as in cost the time it takes for your customer to get your product can weigh heavily on how they judge your product. We live in the world of 2-day delivery or on-demand services and downloads. As businesses, we should pay close attention to how we are getting our products and services to our customers.

  • Make your delivery options / deliverable timelines clear up front – customers remain more satisfied if they know what they are getting and when.
  • Find new ways to deliver your product. Can your item be downloaded instead of needing to be shipped? Can clients schedule their choice of times with you using online calendars instead of having to play email tag to set up a meeting? Can you find a new channel to deliver your tangible products, like Amazon Marketplace or others like it?
  • Be clear on when you are available to your clients. Don’t lead them to believe you are available 24/7 if you don’t respond 24/7. Use out of office messages or quiet hours functions on your phone. If a client sees you are unavailable they won’t think you are ignoring them.

How we talk to them?

Promotion is a one-way path from your business to the constomer. Communications are two way. They are about not only creating clear, consistent messages that resonate with your customers but listening and adapting to feedback.

<p style=”text-align: left;”That’s right I said two way. But what does two way really mean when it comes to customer communications? This is where many businesses fall short. They think customer satisfaction surveys and reviews on websites will suffice. Those are great as we covered earlier for product development but it doesn’t cut it for managing customer relationships. True customer relationship management involves communicating with your customers on a regular basis. This involves not only listening to what they are saying (i.e. gathering their feedback) but really hearing it.

And once you have heard what they have to say you must step back and digest it. Look at it. Study it. And determine how it lines up with what you are doing. And then use it.

  • Are you on track?
  • Do you need to make some course corrections?
  • Have these insights ignited new ideas and possibilities?

Once you have heard your customers and made any modifications you complete the loop by using your marketing to message back. Social media can be an inexpensive and effective way to do this. And by doing it you show your customers that you are in fact engaged. Then you rinse and repeat.

As you can see your customer must be at the center of everything that you do. And when you do put them at the center you will see great results and in the end, your job will get easier.

By: Amy Matthews, CEO, AMI