Let Your Customers Create Your Success
Articles for Growth
By: Leamon Crooms
Running a successful business is fundamentally about managing through change, changes in the economy, changes in your customers, changing tactics from your competitors. Things move fast, and everything is perpetually in motion – so you must constantly adapt and innovate. It feels like the marketing campaign and new product you introduced yesterday was copied by your competitors with a 3D printer today.
Because everything around us changes so rapidly, the excitement about your product or service fades quickly, shortening your marketing “shelf life”. These changes can seemingly lead a business to become obsolete overnight. For example, when was the last time you saw someone in a pair of Crocs. In fact, Crocs Inc. the maker of the most recent fad in plastic shoes is closing 160 retail stores by the end of 2018. Seems like the Croc is going the way of its larger reptilian cousin the dinosaur. Clearly, tastes have changed and Crocs Inc. didn’t get the message from their customers.
To continue to succeed and ensure your company doesn’t go the way of the Croc it must develop an ability to know its customers so well that it continues to deliver what they want.
In this rapidly changing environment, it is imperative that you do two things:
1. Regularly assess whether your products and services continue to be relevant to your customers
2. Redesign your offerings to match what your customers want right now
Since your customers are the ones that will determine whether your new “design” is a valued innovation, your company would benefit by co-creating your solution with your customers. Essentially, this is what successful tech and social media companies do when they ask their customers to become “beta” users or they ask them to submit ideas for new features. Google took this process even further when they released Gmail as a limited beta in 2004 and exited beta for the general population in 2009. If you can remember that far back, then you will likely remember that Google Gmail invites were selling on eBay for over $100.
More recently, Google Inbox was released in 2014 as a smarter and more efficient Gmail. An invite was sold for $205.
This combined beta test and marketing campaign creates splash, scarcity and user engagement, and continues to prove to be a success for companies like Google. A multipurpose campaign like this that involves your customers in an effort to market, innovate and improve your product or service can work for your company too.
Here’s how in three easy steps:
1. Reach out to a representative sample of your customers and update your customer personas. If you haven’t yet created personas, then now is time to do it. The information you gather will reveal valuable new information about your customers.
2. While you are collecting information for personas also ask your customers to help you by suggesting improvements to your product or service. This can be humbling and a little hard to do, but always worth it. It also sends the signal that you are interested in meeting their needs.
3. Refresh your product or service offering based on the information from the Personas and suggestions. Then, promote your new and improved product of service with fanfare.
We used this technique with great success for a client that had recently expanded by acquiring a competitor. Their challenge was to integrate the companies, limit losses from acquired customers jumping ship, and set in motion a new period of growth. After creating personas and obtaining suggestions for improvements we developed a new set of services and relaunched them as a new offering from the combined company. The fanfare and engagement generated by the relaunch immediately increased sales by 20%.
Here are some questions to consider as you begin thinking about your customers. Ask yourself:
- What do you know about your customers?
- Who is he/she? Who pays for your service and who is the one that determines the buying decision?
- What does he/she do?
- How does he/she buy and how does he/she use what he/she buys?
- What does he/she expect?
- What does he/she value?
- What are you selling? “The customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him.”
- Who are your competitors?
- What is the most important feature of your service? What does your customer think of this feature?
- What would enable the customers to do without our product or services? What would force them to do without?
- What does your customer like about your product/service?
- What does your customer hate about your product/service?
- What kinds of problems are your customers experiencing with your product/service and what are they doing to solve those problems?
- How many customers did you lose this year, this quarter, this month? Why did they leave? Whom did they go to after leaving? How is the other business solving their problem?
Leamon Crooms III, Chief Growth Geek
“Growth is good!”