“We know enough about our customers and frankly customer research is an expense we would rather spend elsewhere.” I completely get it, but then why is your company’s growth slowing and why does your business seem to be plateauing?
“Our sales team is struggling, we might need better reps, more reps and we’re not sure if they are telling the full story a customer needs to hear.” – CEO and the Vice President of Sales/Marketing from an industrial manufacturer
“We are dealing with more competitors than we faced in past years so it’s really hard market today.” – Vice President of Product Development for a specialty SAAS company
“Our pricing is hurting us, we’re losing on price.” Vice President of Sales for technology company
“Our marketing budget is not enough and we need to ramp up our social activities, be more digital and sell direct.” – Vice President of Marketing Consumer Product Company
“Our company and its people are not on the same page and we need better communications.”–President of a hard goods manufacturing company
I have had the good fortune of listening to and interviewing numerous people, across diverse industries, with distinctly different roles, giving an answer for why their company is faltering or not reaching the growth goals they set forth. In “almost” every case their answer reflects their vantage point and “rarely” do they express a lack of customer knowledge as a reason for their stagnation. This is interesting because there is unequivocally a link between knowing what customers value and your ability to sell to them what they need… which of course drives your growth, if you do it right.
When I pose the thought of whether they have enough customer knowledge allowing them to position their “entire company” to meet these customers’ needs, I get another set of responses.
“Research is expensive and it always tells us what we already know, which means it doesn’t give us an answer of what we need to do and frankly a customer isn’t going to tell us what they want, that’s our job.” –CEO of a technology company
“We get tons of data about what our customers are clicking on, what they are buying and liking, that allows us to change our campaigns to reflect what they want, plus we have our NPS (net promoter score).” –VP of Digital Marketing for a financial services company
“We validate our branding and advertising concepts before any major release and with that insight can determine the best message and image to convey.”–Chief Marketing Officer mid-sized food manufacturer
“We hear what customers are unhappy with and trouble shoot their problem, so we have a good idea of how to address issues as they arise.” – VP of Customer Service from a technology company
“I speak to my customers monthly and have a good pulse on what to sell to them, I have all I need to know and frankly my numbers reflect it. I can’t speak to the other rep’s situations.” –Sales Associate from a technology company
Okay…so customer insight is about
Except for number 5 which is the same as living under a rock, obtaining and using customer knowledge provides all these wonderful benefits. However, when looked at individually as these people do, they automatically limit the benefits to their needs alone.
While these individuals may not reflect how your business uses and SHARES customer knowledge, they could reflect how some people within your business see its purpose. This is where the disconnect occurs and often hurts things that are meant to drive your growth such as upselling to customers, acquiring new prospects, expanding existing markets, and identifying new markets. The problem is these people alone, have a singular goal and while it might help what their trying to do, their efforts are very much like a first-person narrative which only gives you the plot from their vantage.
Obtaining Customer Knowledge is not a single-story line that has a sole purpose. If done correctly and looked at with a broad view, it can help every part of an organization and shape how a company grows its business. For it to have real value, it must become a multi-purpose initiative that will benefit every department. Regardless of whether you are an internal operator or external sales associate, everyone benefits from knowing what is important to the customers and markets a company serves and pursues.
Here is how it plays out across a company…
1. Marketing teams use it to shape and ensure the message, mediums, and tactics used to build awareness are relevant and create desire for what the company sells. (it often starts with them as Market Research typically falls within the marketing team).
But when there is a product issue or opportunity to create…
2. Product teams use it to identify new solutions, improve existing product issues, and identify new market segments to introduce solutions that grow additional revenue streams.
and when the gate keepers of customers are struggling to close a deal…
3. Sales teams obtain a deeper understanding of the buyers’ motivations, barriers they may have to overcome, opportunities to up-sell, and gain perspective from other sales associates to avoid chasing a lost cause.
and when opportunities drive success and require the right people to keep growing the business…
4. Human resources (yes H.R.) learns what types of people they need to recruit based on customer requirements and personality fits that in B2B businesses are critical as relationships often drive customer growth.
and most importantly when growth must also be profitable…
5. Operations learns what products will be in greater demand and which ones might slowly die off so they can be proactive to fulfill supply lines, anticipate changes to their manufacturing needs, and prepare for a pivot if the organization must dramatically change course.
oh yeah then there is these guys…
6. The Executive Team will have a clear picture of how to lead their organization to meet the needs of the customers, that gives their business purpose and allow them to fend off competitors to overcome growth stagnation. They also will ensure customer knowledge is applied to the above in an orchestrated manner.
Acquiring customer knowledge can be an unnecessary, inflated expense (what?) when it is used as a one-off to solve a single objective. So, for that executive who said its expensive, if your doing it that way…yeah it is.
But when applied and used across the entire organization to make more than just validation decisions, the economies of scale that come from executing it, are pennies compared to the priceless benefits it will yield to drive growth for a business and direct everyone in your organization.