by M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant
Are you meeting your customer where your customer is looking? Customers are changing the way they look for goods and services. Yes, the traditional way of selling still is important and necessary for most business to business companies, but it is not the only way to interact with your customers in today’s market places.
Think about how you and your family shop today. People still go to traditional stores to shop and buy. But many of today’s younger people will go to a store, see something they like, then go on line to see if they can find it at a lower price, either in another store or at an on-line merchant.
Are your customers doing the same thing when they have specific needs for their businesses? Are they checking your catalogs or talking to your sales people, and then going to the internet to search for lower prices and better features and benefits?
What are you doing to address this problem, assuming, of course that it is a problem for your business? Maybe the first thing to do is to check to see if this is actually a problem for your business that you don’t know about. Have your customers started buying less from you recently? Have you asked them about their sales to see if the difference is in their actual sales volume, or is it because they are buying somewhere else? If it appears to be that they are buying somewhere else, is it because your product or service features have not kept up with the competition? Or is it because your prices are too high, or your delivery too long and they have found other sources via the internet or on social media?
What can you do about this? You need to adapt to today’s realities. You need to do more research into what is actually happening in your market places. You need to use social media to determine what your customers are posting, and find out what you can learn from their posts about your products and services, and what others are doing to meet your customers’ needs.
You can’t plan in a vacuum. Become your own customer to see how you are treated and responded to when you contact your own company. Call in to see about a part or to get a question asked. See how you are treated when you become a nuisance. When you have done this, document what happened and go over it with your key people including all your customer contact people. Get their input and make whatever changes are necessary to assure a positive experience for your customers.
Have one or two of your (younger) customer contact people start monitoring your customers’ social media posts to see if you can gain insight into what they are doing, and what they are looking for. Once you have sufficient information on what they are doing, find positive ways to engage them so you can win them back.
Monitor your competitors’ postings as well. This can be a great source of data on what they are doing, and can give you great insight as to how to compete more effectively with them. Don’t ignore these problems, or your business could gradually fade away. Data mining, even in this simple way, is one of the keys to good strategic planning, and it may be the difference between life and death for your company. In addition to understanding customers’ buying patterns you may want to dig deeper and understand what drives their loyalty – to read more, click on loyalty.
M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2012 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.