Looking for the “wow” factor in your business is not always about what you want your company to be for your customers, but very often, it is more about what your customers value about your company. As a first step to creating powerful strategic marketing plans, we always recommend market research to our clients. Market research, specifically customer analysis, is the most powerful tool marketers have for really finding out first hand exactly what your customers value and why they choose you over your competitors.
Many companies want this business intelligence and feel they can “do it themselves” with an email survey or direct mail piece. Well, with almost 20 years in the business, I can tell you that research obtained by “doing it yourself” is truly invalid research. Research needs to be conducted by an unbiased third party who can listen and respond without prejudice or emotion.
I’d like to share with you the big wow factor that came as a result of the research we conducted as the first leg in a strategic marketing project. We’ll call this company ABC Consulting. Prior to our engagement, they were about to “press the button” on several online marketing tactics including investing heavily in a new website with interactive capabilities and launching into social media networking sites. We convinced the client to “hold off” on implementing these tactics until after we conducted a competitive analysis and customer analysis. They took our recommendation and decided to hold off and are eternally thankful that they did. It is true, as with most qualitative research, that the truth lies in asking the “right” questions and so we personally spoke to our client’s customers, asking them a host of custom questions to determine not only what they value in the service they are receiving, but how they feel what they are getting differs from other competitors.
There was not one customer we spoke to that values online communication, stating that they never visit ABC Consulting’s website, and have no need for social media. What do they value? Personal calls, face-to-face meetings, etc. The result of this research is a 180 degree shift from what our client had determined was what their customers’ wanted. As I have said in many of my blogs holds particularly true here: no tactics before you understand who your audience is, and what they value. If our client had executed their online tactics, what type of success do you think they would have had? My guess is none, as their customers never visit their website and new customers search for this service in other ways, but not online.
The research revealed many values, behaviours, wants and needs of ABC Consulting’s customers and competitors, but none stronger than a 180 degree shift in thinking!
With this research in hand we are now able to develop a targeted and strategic plan, rooted in solid research, and our client will save the thousands of dollars they were about to spend on the wrong tactics: tactics that were rooted in guess work and marketing pressure to conform.
My take-away for all business owners is to take the time to get to really know your customers, NOT through your own personal dealings but through someone else’s eyes and the result could be a game changer!
When was the last time your company conducted third party qualitative research? Do you think you need to conduct research before you execute a new marketing initiative? Are you willing to try new tactics without knowing what your customers value? I look forward to you sharing your thoughts in our comment section.
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Despite the widely accepted tenet that “the customer is always right”, the reality is that the statement completely depends on who the customer is and how you define “right”.
If you are a business selling to a business (B2B), being “right” is significantly less important than getting the problem solved. Obviously, you know your B2B company has to provide great customer support if you want clients to return. But the standard assumptions about customer support in a B2C environment don’t work in a B2B environment.
These 5 truths about B2B customer support will help you beat your competition:
- B2B customer bases are smaller and consolidating.
B2B’s tend to deal with a hundred to a few thousand customers. Each transaction can amount to thousands of dollars in business. Unlike B2C’s, if a B2B company loses a customer it can impact the company’s entire year or worse. Customer service plays an even more important role in keeping these customers happy and loyal to your B2B business. Additionally, many of the customers for B2B’s are consolidating or becoming more concentrated because of mergers. After a merger, customer service better be the reason your company is chosen to continue as the vendor of choice.
- B2B’s long-term customer relationships can be a two edged sword.
You may have served some of your customers for years. That’s great, but are you taking them for granted? Say a long-term customer has a bad experience but lets it slide once or twice and doesn’t say anything. The next time they have a bad experience the customer goes directly to the competition without a real explanation. B2B companies always have to be aware of what’s happening in each of their customer relationships. Complacency is your worst enemy.
- EVERYBODY loves data.
For any company, the more information and actionable data the better. Unlike B2C, B2B customer support has to see the customer as a whole picture. Seeing all the customer’s needs, issues, and concerns helps you maintain a complete connection. Having this data allows B2B support teams to see trends or catch bad habits and fix them before they become significant issues.
- It’s hard to find good B2B customers.
With the impact of social media, a bad customer experience can be lethal. In addition, making the wrong decision about how to do B2B customer support can be career ending. On the other hand, 30-40% of B2B customers will refer your company if their customer experience was an exceptional one. Good word-of-mouth can solidify the decision for B2B companies; these referrals can be worth their weight in gold when it comes to locating new customers. Now more than ever customers are looking to their peers for input on upcoming purchases.
- B2B companies compete on service quality.
With many B2B’s, the product isn’t extremely dynamic. Stable products don’t require a significant amount of tweaks and changes. That is why when two competitors in the B2B space compete they are doing so on the quality of their service. When it is all said and done, the company who offers the best and most consistent customer support experience will win.
In conclusion, beating your B2B competition is all about providing better support, through the right customer support software, and valuing your customers more. Being "right" isn't as important as having referenceable customers who will not only continue to do business with you but will also help you acquire new business.
Want to take the next step in learning about your B2B customers?Download our eBook on Reporting and Metrics in the B2B Industry to understand the key metrics to improve efficiency and increase customer retention.