In last week’s stage, we focused on your main competition. You did the research, collected intelligence on their product and service offerings, reviewed their websites, collected their flyers and spent the time building a SWOT analysis for each of your primary competitors. Good for you! This insight will be valuable as you begin to build your plan for next year’s race.
Now we turn our focus to YOUR business. And who better to give you feedback on how well you are delivering on the promises you make but your existing customers? Welcome to stage 47 of this year’s Tour de Profit. We are in the stages of the race where we are collecting data and insights that we can use to build a winning race strategy for next year. And your current customers hold the key to some of the most valuable competitive information you could ever gather.
Think about it. Your current customers have already made a choice about the competition. They are voting with their pocketbooks – which is the most powerful indicator of market preferences. Your customers have done some comparative shopping and have determined that your offer is the most compelling, your product is superior to others, your pricing is acceptable and your delivery meets their needs. Would you agree?
Not so fast! How can you be sure? What if they are on the verge of dropping you like a hot rock? How would you know? What if their last visit was just that – their last visit? Isn’t it important to KNOW what they are feeling about you and your business? How often do we go through time making an “assumption” that everything is going well – without asking our customer? My suspicion is way too often!
Well this is the week to change all that. This week, your assignment is to do something that many of your competitors rarely do – talk with your customers and ask them directly what they think about doing business with you. Before we compile our data and insights into a plan, we must have this critical piece of intelligence. The intelligence we gain from our customers is what is most critical to our future success. It is like the blood that flows through our veins. It is important to know that it is “good blood” and not “bad blood”.
So, as we have done several times before, I want to give you a step by step process to follow this week. There is not need to make this complicated. We’ll break down our activities into easy, logical steps that will give us the outcome we need and want – the honest truth from our current customers. Ready? Here we go:
Step 1 – Gather a list of all customers that have purchased from you over the past 6 months to 1 year. We want those who are current customers, not those who did business with you a couple of years ago. The more current the better.
Step 2 – Sort the list by frequency of purchase and total purchase volume. We want to know who those customers are who do business with you on a very regular basis. Their purchases may be small in relative size, but if they are regular, repeat customers, that makes them very valuable to you over the long run. We also want to know those who do a large volume of sales with us. These may be infrequent customers but when they buy, they buy big. These too, are critical to our long term success.
Step 3 – Start at the top of each list and identify a manageable number of customers who you could have a one to one discussion with over this next week. If you have others on your team who can assist with this activity, give them a manageable list as well. The more the better, but it is better to have a meaningful discussion with a few rather than a brief and surface level discussion with many.
Step 4 – Build a list of 5 or 6 key questions that you would like to ask each customer. These would be open ended questions – those that cannot be answered with a yes or a no. You want these questions to be relevant but also thought-provoking. An example might be “What is the feeling you get when you do business with us?” That question may cause them to wrinkle their forehead and pause for a minute, but the response you get will be very revealing. Come up with 4 or 5 others that get at the heart of your product , service, accessibility, ease of doing business, follow through, etc. Focus on those areas of your business that matter most and those that may be strategic for you.
Step 5 – For every primary question you identify, come up with a secondary question that digs deeper into their answer. These will likely be “why” questions. For example, “Why does that matter so much to you?” or “Why would that make a difference in who you do business with?” The goal is to get your customer to reveal more of their underlying reasoning for choosing you over your competition.
Step 6 – Make copies of your question set so that you have one set of questions for every customer you plan to visit with. Don’t try to “wing it”. Let them know that you are gathering data on which to make strategic decisions for your business. They will be honored to know you included them in your thought process.
Step 7 – Give yourself and your team members a target and goal of completing all discussions by a certain day and time. Don’t let this process linger. Set the expectation that this is urgent and important. Allow yourself and your team to schedule blocks of time to either visit your customers in person or connect with them by phone. Make this a live interaction. No e-mail. No survey monkey. No questionnaire in the mail. Talk with your customers – either on the phone or in person. They will appreciate you reaching out and making the connection.
Step 8 – Gather the data and compile the results. I know what you are thinking – these will be all verbal responses – no numbers to average. How does that help? This is not an effort to be scientific. There are multiple reasons for the direct contact in addition to asking for their opinion, it is about making a “touch”. Making a connection. Building a deeper relationship. You want to grow your business, spend time talking with your customers!
There you have it. Either simple steps. Nothing fancy. Just following a structured way to get insights and feedback from your current customers. Once you put this with your competitive SWOT intelligence, you are ready to make some decisions and build a plan.
Well done! You are now smarter. Your customers are impressed that you care. And you know more clearly what you need to do to gain more great customers. What could be better than that?
Contact Rich Allen, Business Coach at www.actioncoach.com/richallen or at email@example.com for more information on his business coaching programs.