Whether it’s Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Sam Walton (Walmart) or any other founder who managed to build a multi-billion dollar operation, the question will inevitably come up: “What was the secret?” While these entrepreneurs may mention timing, innovation and hard work as the reasons behind their success, they all emphasized the importance of focusing on the customer first.
According to Walmart’s Walton: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
Bezos described the mindset behind Amazon’s customer-centric culture similar to that of planning an event. “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts,” he said. “It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
Marketing guru Seth Godin advises companies, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”
Apple founder Steve Jobs famously disrupted an entire industry by relentlessly pursuing a better customer experience. “Get closer than ever to your customers,” Jobs said. “So close that you tell them what they need before they even realize it.”.
The list goes on and on.
Whether you’re working as part of a start-up or a multi-million-dollar corporation, maintaining an unswerving focus on the customer demands cross-departmental collaboration. All departments, from innovation to marketing and customer success, must be committed to the same goals.
These efforts require a strategic communications plan to engage your core audiences.
Use these 10 questions to help you stay on track with a steadfast focus on the customer.
- How well do we know our customers? Any customer-centric marketing approach requires a deeper understanding of your prospective buyers. Regularly gain relevant insights through data research, filling in details about your buyer, including their demographics, their roles, their needs and their challenges. Determine how you can make their lives better by providing the guidance they need to identify the right solution.
- Who exactly are our customers? To ensure meaningful connections with your customers, communicate with them as individuals. Go beyond marketing personas to identify and understand your customers based on more than traditional demographics. Psychographic segmentation deepens your understanding by grouping customers based on their attitudes towards your brand and the overall market. Do their values align with what your company is saying and doing?
- How responsive are we to customers’ needs? After gaining a better understanding of your customer, take a hard assessment at how well your solution is matching their needs. You may discover gaps that need to be addressed. For example, you may have the ideal solution, but you may be missing opportunities to communicate those values as part of your marketing strategy. Or it’s possible that you could be getting better results by identifying buyers that are better suited for your solution. Make adjustments as needed.
- How does our brand promise support customers? Your brand promise should guide your team in consistently delivering on customers’ expectations. Use data to compare your brand promise to what customers need from you. If necessary, make adjustments to messaging around your brand promise to better align it with customer expectations.
- What are our core differentiators? Determine the most significant ways you serve your customers better than anyone else. Are these relevant to your customers? Again, use research to determine if those advantages matter to your customers. Identify the core differentiators that clearly provide answers to your customers’ challenges.
- How well do team members understand our brand promise? Everyone in the organization should clearly understand the brand promise and how it meets the needs of customers. Regularly communicate the brand promise internally to ensure everyone is engaged in how they’re helping and serving clients. If you’re outsourcing projects, keep external team members informed on how you’re communicating your brand promise to ensure consistency.
- Do we have a system that eliminates silos? In addition to promoting the organization’s brand promise among team members, assess how customer information is shared among departments. As you gain more information about customers, including any new insights about their expectations, communicate those important details to other departments.
- Is the research process easy for the customer?The buyer journey for each market segment should be seamless. Assess how well you’re providing the right answers to customers’ questions at specific points along their buyer journey. Use data-driven research to determine if you’re meeting their expectations for ideal informational and creative content as well as making it easy to access. Find ways to eliminate any frustrations they may be experiencing in finding the information they need to make a confident decision about their purchase.
- Are we giving customers a reason to trust us? Assume that prospective customers have never heard of your brand. Without any personal history, why would they have a reason to trust your brand? Explore ways to earn that credibility throughout the buying process. Go straight to your customer for feedback and testimonials to provide third-party validation that your organization stands behind its brand promise.
- Do we have a process for monitoring our performance? It’s important to ensure consistency with your customer-centric initiatives. In addition to using software tools that analyze customers’ responsiveness to your messaging, identify employees who are enthusiastic about monitoring how well your team is adhering to brand messaging. Set a goal to exceed customer expectations in all areas of your organization. Be prepared to respond to customer feedback and adjust your strategy and processes accordingly.
Understanding your customers — who they are and what they need — is essential to the success of your organization. It is important to use customer data to deliver actionable market and employee research to help you be more effective and develop deeper connections with your customers.