Success in today’s market requires a relentless pursuit of growth. Resting on your laurels is a luxury that companies today don’t have – we have to act quickly just to maintain our presence in the market, let alone grow.
I bear witness every day to the truth that growth occurs when customers inform the strategic decisions companies make. However, it’s also true that this is easier said than done.
Why is it so difficult? Well, part of the challenge is the vast amount of information that needs to be considered and curated when making strategic decisions.
For example, in a previous blog post, I talked about the challenge of developing strategy when there are multiple levels of competition to consider. Add to this the complexity of multiple product offerings and different customer segments with different needs, and you have a lot going on.
In my job as Customer Success Manager, I bring order to this chaos. I wade fearlessly into the complexity of my clients’ business with one simple question that brings focus: What decision is your customer making?
By focusing on just one customer choice being made (one that impacts your business growth!), everything else becomes clear. By putting yourself in the shoes of a customer making a decision, it’s easier to define the relevant competition. It’s easier to understand the factors that impact that choice. And then it’s easier to transform the subsequent insights into strategy.
After all, you are in the business of winning customer choices. If more customers don’t choose you over your competition, you can’t grow. The first step is to identify a customer choice that impacts where you want to grow your business.
So, let’s say that you’ve done this – you’ve determined the customer choice you want to study. Now comes the tricky part. There’s a second hurdle. You have to talk to your customers in order to understand how they make that choice.
How do you make the jump from framing the customer choice to actually having the conversation with your customers? What should you say to them? What’s the best way to put yourself in your customer’s shoes so you can talk to them in a way that will make sense to them and also will give you great competitive information?
Break The Ice
At Vennli, our survey platform essentially asks three very simple yet poignant questions. You can follow a similar sequence in your customer conversation. These questions let you know what’s important to your customers, and what they think about you and your competitors.
1. When making this decision, what factors are important to you?
Make sure to pay attention to what they say. Dig deeper when they give you an answer that is too high-level. Are they focusing on factors that are related to price, quality, or customer service? Do they value some things over others? The answers they give will unlock the priority that customers give to different aspects of your offering.
2. How strongly do you associate each of these factors with me?
Again, just listen to what your customers say. Now is not the time for sales conversations – just listen to understand. These are their perceptions, which are important because they drive their purchasing behavior.
3. How strongly do you associate these factors with our competitor?
This last question will yield how strongly your customers associate factors that are most important to them with your competition.
Freeze Out The Competition
Asking your customers gives you the insight needed to win more customer choices. Armed with these insights, you can consider the following questions when developing your strategy:
- Do customers think you’re delivering on what you think you’re delivering? Where are there discrepancies?
- Where is your competitive advantage and how can you continue to build on this?
- Are there any factors that you believe you offer but your customers don’t? What can you do about that?
- Are there any factors that are associated with your competitor but not with you? Should you do anything about that?
- What is offered by both you and your competitor equally in the eyes of your customer? Are any of these perceived points of parity things that you know you can do better? How can you improve upon them?
By focusing on a customer decision, you can simplify a complex competitive landscape. By having your customers answer three simple questions, you can get the actionable insights needed to develop customer-driven strategy. And when the customer’s voice drives decision making, amazing things happen.