Want a Competitive Advantage? Talk to Your Customers.

By cyril Toman

 

talk to your customers

I am constantly amazed by how many executives I meet at various events and functions who, in response to me saying I’m a strategic marketing consultant, tell me they’ve just run their company strategy planning day and are finally working on their strategic plan for the next 1-3 years.

I often throw the cat amongst the pigeons by asking, ' How many of your clients participated in the process?' My question is typically met by quizzical frowns of varying nature, silence and then the response, ‘What do you mean? Clients don’t participate, it's OUR strategic plan after all.’

To become a successful market driven firm it’s critical to seek feedback from the market – it's that simple. Seeking insight and feedback from stakeholders including insiders, staff, clients, suppliers and collaborators or co-consultants of all descriptions must be a core input. This is critical to the success of any modern day strategic planning process.

Sure, the aspirations and motivations of a company's leaders is centra lto where it wants to go and what it means, but it is its customers and other stakeholders that will provide the real nuggets in the process of refining a company (let’s call it a ‘value delivery’ machine).

This is what really provides a company with the insight that can be leveraged to give it a real and ongoing sustainable competitive advantage. Subsequently, harnessing a process that allows you to do this on an ongoing basis is not only fuel for delivering better value, but also an innovation that leads to better customer value and a more competitive position in the market.

At Davies BDM, our broad 10-step framework for B2B insight generation goes like this:

  • Clarifying the purpose of undertaking a Customer Insight Process.
  • Determining the research problem and defining the parameters of the research.
  • Stakeholder Mapping - Choose which customers and stakeholders to talk to.
  • Developing a Discussion Guide - what should we ask and how should we ask it?
  • Conducting interview sessions and discussion groups - who should do it? when should they be done?.. and how should they be run?
  • Analysing the information (stakeholder feedback) and turning it into valuable insight – Tools for analysing Customer Insight.
  • Synthesising the information – Tools for turning customer insight into usable knowledge.
  • Sharing the feedback with participants – feedback on the feedback.
  • Committing to a framework for action – Customer Insight Applied.
  • Developing a culture of customer conversations.

Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll outline the way we engage stakeholders in the process of generating insight that will deliver everyone better value and lead to competitive advantage.

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandykirchlechner/5042056665/

TOPICS Customer Insight Inbound Marketing