Here are 8 steps to ensure that you do.
I never cease to be amazed at the number of businesses that do not put their customer or consumer at the heart of everything they do, whether they are B2B or B2C. And then they wonder why they are not growing at the rate they expect. With so many balls to juggle in a business from ensuring delivery of the product or service, to staffing, maintaining the finances, ensuring IT systems are running, etc., it is easy to forget about the customer or consumer. And this behaviour is not confined to the ‘for-profit’ sector only. Indeed in the not-for-profit sector the donor or service user needs to be at the heart of everything you do too!
However, it needn’t be that way!
Putting the customer or consumer at the heart of everything you do needs to become a business philosophy, a way of working, a mantra, a value…call it what you will. Some businesses do it really well.
My first job after university was on the graduate programme of Mars Inc. What a fantastic business. Their portfolio of brands includes such global greats as Mars, Snickers, M&Ms, Whiskas, Pedigree, Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s.
Mars operate by The Five Principles.
These 5 Principles are the foundation of their culture and approach to business since the early 1980’s.
The first of these is Quality ‘The consumer is our boss and quality is our goal’ that’s how it was written back then. Nowadays it has been refined and reads ‘Everybody has a voice…anybody can question the quality of any order. And the standard is very simple: put yourself in the position of the consumer, and if you wouldn’t be happy with what you’re going to give them, don’t give it to them’.
John and Forrest Mars, the owners back then, were obsessive about Quality. They were known to stop the manufacturing line; rejecting product they felt wasn’t up to the standards their consumers deserved. Never mind that stopping the manufacturing line would cost a lot of time and money in terms or finished product and raw materials, such was their passion for the consumer that money they considered it time and money well spent!
The alternative, sending out sub standard product to their consumers was unthinkable. My experience at Mars Inc. has stayed with me forever, a valuable life lesson for which I will be forever grateful.
The customer or consumer is where I start and end. They must be at the heart of everything I do. Simple!
So what can you do to put the customer or consumer at the heart of everything you do?
I recommend 8 key things:
- Make it a stated value of your business that you will put your customer at the heart of your business. And share it with all of your employees. Mindset is everything. Start as you mean to go on.
- Identify your customer or consumer. Who are they? Where are they? What are they like? Creating Personas will help make your customers or consumers real, will bring them to life and will give everyone a common understanding of who they are.
- Segment your customer or consumer base, as you may have a variety of customer types or clusters. This will enable you to identify customer groups that share similarities and you will understand how best to position your offering to the different groups or segments.
- Research is essential. Quantitative research which will help you quantify the numbers and types of customers you have and will give you an understanding of the ‘what’. Qualitative research will help you understand the ‘why’, i.e. the motivations behind the behaviour. This need not be overly complicated or expensive, but more about that in another post.
- Ensure your brand or product proposition is unique and differentiated from your competitors
- Map the customer or consumer journey. This is a framework that maps out the stages of your customer’s lifecycle. It enables you to improve your customer experience through helping you best understand how customers are interacting with you now and what areas to invest in moving forward.
- Create a marketing plan so that you can influence your customer or consumer at key touch points. Rather than a scattergun approach to your marketing efforts you will now have a targeted approach, a much more effective and efficient use of your scarce resources.
- Measure how you are doing via feedback or research and use that information to improve your customer journey.
Try these 8 steps and you will experience the difference. Trust me..