Every business owner is striving for growth, with the aim to reach as many prospects as possible and win them over as loyal customers. The question is how do you make people love what your brand does? A customer-centric approach might be the answer. Here’s why.
Putting the customer firstThe days of the brand being in control are over. Power shifted to the customer long ago with the emergence of online technologies and periods of economic downturn. We now live in the age of AdBlockers, Spotify and Netflix. It’s a world in which customers are in charge of the content they read, watch, listen to, and have the power to choose which brands they prefer to spend their money on. In today’s environment, the winners are those that put their customers first in all aspects of their business strategy and culture. Research by Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable compared to companies that were not focused on the customer. Put simply, a customer-centric brand strives to build healthy relationships with it’s consumers by identifying their needs and providing the best-possible experience.
“If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” – Ray Kroc (the man behind the global growth of McDonald’s)
Understand the customer
The starting point for creating a customer-first strategy and culture is to learn more about your customer and understand their needs. Collecting data through various primary and secondary research methods will provide you with essential information about what your audience will expect from you, and how you can fulfil their expectations. For example, keep an eye on Facebook comments and run keywords relevant to your business through Google to see what results pop-up. You can also glean a lot from your current customers.
Get their feedback on your products and sales process. Ask your customer what they want and get inside their head. Review the data about your customers in your CRM, such as demographics, customer service records, purchase history, and even their activity on your website. Regular review and analysis of your CRM can provide intelligence to help you continually enhance your product or service, and the customer experience.
Understanding your customer is also a key part of your ideation and product or service development process. It’s true that the best ideas do not always develop into the best products, and good marketing can only do so much for a product or service that doesn’t meet customer’s needs or expectations. Products and services designed around customer needs and expectations will have a far easier path to market, and when good marketing is applied, they have a far greater chance of success.
Take all you know about your customers and create buyer personas for each of them. These then become a helpful blueprint to staying focused on the customer in everything your brand, product or service offers.
“If there’s one reason we have done better than of our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word-of-mouth is so very, very powerful.” - Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon
Customer JourneyMaking the customer journey seamless, and exceeding customers’ expectations can result in a faster sales cycle and increased revenue. The best place to start is by auditing your marketing and sales activity, and mapping out your customer journey as a visual representation of every experience your customers have with you. This process helps you to step into your customer’s shoes and see your business from the customer's perspective. It allows you to gain insight into common customer pain points and define what customers and prospective customers need in order to complete a purchase. From this information, you can workshop ideas to innovate, improve the experience, delight your customers and increase the rate of conversion between each point in the marketing and sales process.Take Australian fashion retailer Birdsnest for example. Birdsnest began as a small retail space in the NSW town of Cooma in 2008, and through its tireless pursuit of customer-led product development, marketing and sales, it is now on-track to turnover $30million this year. This brand has developed a fine understanding of the things that impact women’s decision-making when it comes to purchasing fashion online. They have met their customers’ needs with clever, yet super-simple tactics such as online styling suggestions by body-shape, occasion and personal style. They even innovated with the introduction of the Birdsnest "virtual change room" so customers can order up to $1,000 worth of clothes to try on before they buy. For this brand, implementing a customer journey that puts the customer first has certainly paid off.
“Understand and become passionate about the problems you are solving for your customers.” - Jane Cay, Founder of Birdsnest
MarketingIt’s no secret that most marketers these days do customer research before developing a marketing strategy - and for good reason. We develop detailed profiles of ideal customers or buyer personas in order to understand what to say to them, how to say it and where to engage with them. Once we have this intimate knowledge of who the customer is and what they need, we can plan and develop content that is designed to answer their questions and solve their problems. We can also make sure this message is distributed in the places and channels frequented by them. This approach leads to far higher rates of conversion at the top of the funnel, meaning better, more qualified leads are being generated for your sales team.
“By focusing on the right kind of customers it galvanised the strength of our assortment. We were able to put together an assortment that was the best one for that kind of customer, and we were able to increase our marketing efficiency because we were giving a relevant message to the right customer set.” Adam Jacobs, Co-Founder at The Iconic
It’s easy to focus on what you need from your sales process, however focusing instead on the needs of your customer can be incredibly valuable and lead to a far higher close-rate. The trick is to look at the process from their perspective. Mapping your customer journey can assist with this.
Customers have so much access to information these days. Way before speaking to you or your sales team, your prospective customers have done thorough research on the solutions available, their features, benefits, price and more. Once they do engage with your sales team, they don’t need the hard-sell (or even the medium-sell for that matter!). When you simply focus on understanding their needs, and offer a solution to their problems, the end result is usually the same – the customer chooses you and you make that sale.
“Ongoing engagement is crucial to getting to the “why” and creating a more authentic relationship with customers over time.” - Ian Jackman, head of customer voice at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited
A culture of customer obsessionMake sure that being customer-oriented is not just part of your product, marketing and sales strategies, but that it is at the core of your organisational culture. When your entire team is aligned on being singularly focused on what is going help your customers, you will grow and adapt with your customers, keeping you relevant. This offers dual benefits. Firstly, it will help your brand remain relevant, as your constant innovation continues to solve your customers problems. Secondly, you will inevitably increase customer satisfaction, retention, advocacy and sustain revenue growth.
“Customer service shouldn’t just be a department; it should be the entire company” – Tony Hsieh, CEO at ZapposWhy not start implementing a change towards customer centricity in your business? Remember, start with your customers - not your products or services. Focus on what your customers want to do. By designing your business from the customer’s perspective, you will be focused on the customer’s needs, and growth will be inevitable.