An outside-in perspective is essential to identify and improve customer value. This is the currency of profit because in this transparent world customers only buy and return based on their assessment of the value you provide. It’s all too easy to work from a set of mental assumptions about “typical” customers, but are yours out of date?
#1 The “We Know What We Know Trap”
A new breed of customer is among us with expectations shaped by their consumer experiences of fast, convenient, engaging and responsive mobile first solutions. There is a new expectation among customers that challenges incumbents and is prepared to give new ways of getting what they want a go. This is not confined to consumers, its true for B2B buyers too – Salesforce reports 61% of B2B purchases start online and 80% of business buyers want a consumer-like digital experience.
Inevitably your industry will be finding itself in a confluence of change driven by technologies, disruptors and complexity. How can you set a course through this complexity, staying relevant to the new breed of customer while evolving your proposition and communications to the new challenges and opportunities? It is important not to fall into the assumptive “we know what we know trap” that working for any length of time in a role brings because this tacit knowledge is often out of date or just plain wrong because it was never directly checked with customers. These working frameworks are easy and seductive but the lack of challenge means messages will fail to land squarely, the pace of innovation tails off, creativity is compromised and scarce budget is wasted.
#2 Listen to Your Customers
The navigational principle that cuts through complexity is to listen to your customers. Re-think how you understand your customers and how you provide them with value because customers have a choice, and it is their choice to make on their terms. When they pay for your product or service they are exchanging their cash for the value that you provide. Finding out what they value along the journey, and how you can improve that value becomes your organising principle. You are likely to find that in many ways you are accidentally reducing value in the eyes of your customers by actions taken, or not taken.
#3 Customers are Individuals, even In B2B
Getting rid of thumbnail “personas” which caricature “typical” customers is the first step. Personas are artificial constructs based on imagined demographic, behavioural and psychographic characteristics, but real-life customers are never so simple. I remember producing individual case studies of real business customers for Vodafone showing how they worked and used technology on the move. These were accurately described and visualised with photographs onto large boards and placed around the team room. This was eye-opening and engaging but every customer was different and challenging in some way. At a high level they were all in the same target segment and shared a “persona” but the envisaged proposition failed to land because each had their own individual requirement and apparently atypical characteristics. It was no use dismissing each customer as “unusual” – these were the actual customers who would have to find value in the proposed solution. Mono-dimensional caricatures mislead and don’t cut through to truth.
#4 The New Role for Insight
The alternative is to drive customer centricity by really understanding customers and engaging them in an ongoing conversation. There will be many data sources to inform this conversation but it is important to talk directly with customers and recognise them as individuals. This will inform, build and indeed challenge the statistical view of customers which leads to bland digital marketing, stifling creativity and innovation. Instead work with customers to jointly develop value propositions that add emotional engagement as this will provide a sound basis for more sales, higher value and improved ROI. Defining value propositions in this way provides a template for innovation, messaging and Customer Experience (CX).
This is the new role of insight, providing dynamic and relevant connections between your business and your customers, bringing fresh understanding and a solid foundation to build customer value and ROI.
BeyondCuriosity is a specialist insight and innovation agency enabling innovation and growth.
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