Make People Care About Your Business
By Jeffrey Baumgartner
If you are like most readers of Report 103, you are either responsible for innovation in your organisation or you are a consultant who helps companies innovate better. In either case, much of the creativity and innovation you oversee is probably about creating innovative new products, designing new services, coming up with better packaging solutions, improving processes and, if you are bold, you may even be working on developing innovative new business models.
That's all fine and dandy, but have you ever stopped to think about whether or not your customers really care about any of this? Have you ever wondered how your customers feel about you? Are you just another business they buy from because your products tick the right boxes and your price is right. That might get you a sale today. But what about tomorrow? Maybe your prices are the lowest. Great. Your customers will buy from you as long as your product is okay and no one comes up with a cheaper alternative than yours. If your customers do not care about you, they'll drop you faster than an angry cat as soon as a better option comes along.
Your Customers Should Feel Good About You...
In fact, if you want to make it easier to acquire and retain customers, you need to make your customers feel good about you, your products and your organisation. That is true irrespective of whether you are the CEO of a global technology company or a consultant mostly operating out of a Starbucks coffee shop.
...And Your Products
Apple is a great example of this. Their products are not particularly superior to their competitors'. But people like Apple, identify with Apple and become passionate about their products. As a result, Apple customers happily pay a premium for their iPhones and iPads and remain loyal to the brand when it comes time to replace their devices. This is why Apple has some of the biggest margins in the notoriously tight-margined world of IT hardware: people care.
I buy my magazines and bus passes from Dagbladshandle (newsagents) De Zavel because Frank, who owns it, is a friendly chap who always welcomes me (and nearly all of his customers) by name. I started going there because his shop is close to the primary school my sons went attended. The lads are now in middle school and University and I have no need to go to that part of the village these days. Nevertheless, I bicycle there regularly to buy magazines because Frank is such a friendly chap. And not just to me. There are inevitably a few people hanging around chatting with Frank whenever I visit.
On the other side of the spectrum, I fly a bit for business and pleasure. There are some airlines I will actively avoid simply because their customer service is so unfriendly and their aeroplanes are so uncomfortable. I also actively avoid doing business with the oldest telecommunications company in Belgium because their customer service standards are appalling, even by the very low standards of the industry (do you know any telecommunications company anywhere in the world that actually has a reputation for friendly service?) From time to time, a salesperson from this telecommunications firm calls me with some great deal. And, every time, I tell the caller, "There's no need to waste your time. I don't care about the price or the offer. I have had terrible experiences with your company. That's not your fault, of course. Nevertheless, I am not interested in your offer."
Would Your Customers Go Out of Their Way to Buy From You?
Would your customers go out of their way to buy from you? Worse, might they actively avoid you? Do they have any feelings about you? If your innovation focuses on products, process and service delivery, there is a good chance your customers simply do not care about you one way or another.
Maybe it is time to change that. Maybe it is time to change the way you do business and invite your customers to begin caring about you. To do that, you need to get creative. Unless you run a small, local shop, just being friendly to your customers is not enough. You need to do two things. Firstly, you need to care about your customers. Love is a two way thing and your customers certainly will not love you if they think you are only interested in their money. Secondly, you need to be different to your competitors in ways that your customers admire and with which they can identify. Ideally, you want your customers to identify with your uniqueness. They should feel a little special by buying your products in the way that Apple customers feel a little special.
Start with Your Vision Statement
To achieve these aims, you probably need to start with your organisation's mission statement and vision statement. Do these texts have anything to do with your customers whatsoever? Or are they all about you and your products? If the latter is true, it is time to rethink your corporate reasons for being. Define a vision statement that is about your customers; or at least come up with text that allows your customers to identify with you as being special.
The next step is to communicate the change internally. Everyone in your company needs to know your new focus. Fortunately, they will almost certainly like it. People like to be employed by companies that are special, companies that customers love.
Then, begin an innovation programme to rethink your marketing, your products and your processes to align with your new customer-centred vision statement. It will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. It will take time for your customers to discover that you are worth loving. It will take time for them to discover that your lovability is not a short term marketing ploy. It will take time for them to trust you.
But, if you want your customers to love you and buy from you because they care about you, it is a change well worth making.
Maybe 2017 is a good year to start that change. What do you think?
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