Talk To Your Customers

Talk to your customers. Seems so simple and obvious. But, it may not be. When I say talk to them, what I mean is get feedback from them. What do you like? What don’t you like? What would you change if you were in charge? These are very broad, open ended questions that have endless possible answers. However, the feedback you could receive could be invaluable.

I worked for a company once where we regularly called and visited our customers to get feedback. We then used that feedback sometimes to change our marketing activities. This allowed us to be more successful at our jobs by tailoring what we did to our market.

If you value marketing, then you know that your business centers around your customers. Maybe they have an insight from the outside that you don’t have or simply cannot see. Ask questions. Get feedback.

When you get feedback, you don’t have to always use it. However, when you do use it, be sure to thank the customer for his or her insight. Maybe even provide them a gift as part of your thank you. It will make them feel good to know that you actually paid attention to what they had to say.

Do know however that a lot of feedback that you receive will be very contextual. In other words, it will be something that that one particular customer wants. You have to determine though if enough other customers want that same thing before going out and making whatever change it is. If that customer is the only one, then your changes will be done to make only one person happy. That is not an efficient use of resources.

In sum, ask questions. Many great marketing ideas have come from customers. Who knows, you might find some for your business.

Managing Expectations

We all have expectations for goods and services. We base our evaluations of products using those expectations. Performance exceeds expectations and we’re satisfied. Performance does not meet expectations and we’re dissatisfied. So as a business, what should we do with this information?

Well, the answer is complicated. We aim to put our best foot forward with our marketing efforts. We promote our company and products in the most positive way. Why? Because that is what attracts customers to us. But there is a problem. Based on how successful we are in painting ourselves in a positive light, consumers can come to us with super high expectations. The higher the expectations, the greater the chances that we are not going to meet them.

So do we do things to create lower expectations in consumers? Well, you can, but then you have another problem. If you don’t promote yourself so highly, consumers might not be attracted to you in the first place.

The best approach is to take a balanced approach. Don’t make claims of performance that you cannot match. Don’t promise food to a customer’s table in 10 minutes unless you can actually deliver that. Set realistic expectations for the consumers. In this example, if you know it takes around 10 minutes to get food out, add a small buffer to that and communicate it to consumers. If you tell customers it will be 10 minutes and it takes 11, they might get a little impatient. If you promise 15 minutes and it takes 11, they will be happy it was early.

Another tactic is to couple expectations with a guarantee of some sort. Promise a certain level of quality or service and back it up with a refund or some other compensation. This will help consumers manage their own expectations. If you do this, you will need to make sure you are able to meet those expectations consistently. Because if you cannot, you will be paying out frequently on the guarantee and that is not good for business.

Managing and dealing with expectations is always a challenge. Consumers are more demanding than ever. So have a plan in place to manage expectations and address the ramifications if they are not met.

Sales Patterns

Do you have a firm understanding of the ins and outs of your sales data? Are there different types of customers who purchase different types of products from you? In a previous career, I was involved in digging through our company’s sales data to develop a deeper understanding of what our customers bought. This was a B2B business, and we had detailed information on each customer, including their industry and location. We were able to develop profiles of different customer types and identify clusters of products that they commonly purchased. This allowed us to arm our salespeople with lists of products to focus on during sales calls. We also used this information to create promotions targeting various customer types. This helped our salespeople be more efficient, which was good for them as well as the company.

If you have the ability to link sales data to specific customers, you can also do this type of analysis to gain a better understanding of your customers and how to target them with products that they’re most likely to consider purchasing.