One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is being inwardly focused. But you can change that by trying this
Whether it’s a marketing campaign, a new product or service or business idea; entrepreneurs come up with great ideas and jump into executing them without any thought as to what their target market is thinking or what’s happening in their environment.
When they don’t gain traction or interventions fail, we think it’s because of the tactics we used, when in many cases it’s simply because we’ve gone about the process backwards – it should begin with listening.
Here are some of the things you need to find out before diving head first into anything:
1. What is affecting your customers most?
It might be changing legislation in their environment or the advent of disruptive technology. It might be something completely different to what you’re assuming.
Unless you ask, you won’t know.
And if you don’t know, you can’t package your solutions in a way that meets your customers’ needs and is attractive to them. Spend time listening to what your customers’ greatest challenges are and where they see opportunities. Then find ways that you can help them to solve their problems and take advantage of the opportunities available. This is what a customer-centric approach looks like.
2. How satisfied and loyal are your customers and why?
An unsatisfied customer is likely to move to another supplier, but even a loyal customer may move if you are not offering what they most need.
To develop loyal customers that will stick with you, you need to understand how satisfied they are, and what impacts that satisfaction.
For example, you may assume it’s all about pricing, when actually the reason your customer chose you is that your product is the easiest to use or you offer a more holistic solution than your competitors. Keep touching base with your customers to measure their levels of satisfaction and loyalty and find ways of serving your customers that tap into their needs and values. This could be anything from offering free training to your client’s staff on how to use your software product, to implementing a loyalty programme that rewards customers for repeat business or referrals.
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The important thing is that your strategy is guided by your customers and through listening to their needs. This can be done through regular conversations, but also by following them on social media to understand what they’re saying and how their own customers are interacting with them.
3. Who are your competitors and what are they up to?
As well as listening to your customers, you need to listen to the other players in your market to keep abreast of industry developments, trends and changes.
If you want to stand out from the pack, you need to have an understanding of the pack.
Who are the new kids on the block? Have you actively visited their websites to see any changes/additions? How are they faring on social media? What are their customers saying about them? And how can you learn from what they’re doing and use those lessons in developing your own marketing strategy?
A prime example of a company that has done this brilliantly is Google – they weren’t the first search engine, but they became successful by understanding what people needed, what was available, and then consistently developing solutions that met needs, solved problems and went a step further than competitors.
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4. What’s affecting your business environment?
Any changes in your industry will affect your business, so you need to be aware of what’s happening, whether it relates to the economy in which you’re operating, new regulations in your sector, or something as simple as seasonal changes in your business.
Read widely and stay up to date on changes and challenges so you can turn them into business opportunities. What are the thought leaders saying? What are the 'hot' issues and what is your response from a marketing perspective?
In summary, listen to your customers, your competitors and business leaders in your field. Let their input shape your strategy, and it’s bound to be more effective.