by Andrea Belk Olsen
IMEC is an IMA Member
We often over simplify what we believe a customer’s need is, often due to the fact that many organizations view customer needs through an internal lens.
“Because we sell widgets, our customer must need widgets. Our customers must want them to perform reliably, have them delivered on time, and at least meet a minimum quality standard.”
Organizations frequently view this as their organizational purpose and mission – to generate a product and sell it to as many customers as possible who might buy the it. Yet this can be a self-fulfilling perspective, presuming that your offerings are addressing all the needs a customer may have.
Why is this mindset so prevalent in a lot of companies today? It usually originates at the beginning, starting with the company mission.
When you take a look at your company’s mission, what does it say? What are you in business for? Do you want to be the leader in your industry? Does your organization plan to be the “best” in whatever you do?
The more important question is, for what purpose?
When we examine how businesses make money and grow, there are a few obvious strategic factors. Sometimes it’s about having a superior product or service. Or it’s being first to market. And sometimes it’s about being the cheapest, or the most accessible.
No matter what the strategy, the common thread between all successful companies, in any industry, is understanding who you are serving (the customer) and how you can serve them in the exact way they want to be served to fulfill their needs. Each customer often has a unique set of needs, with similar ends, and every need ties to bigger picture goals.
Following is not Competing
Terms including “best quality”, “on time delivery”, “responsive customer service”, and “best value,” all permeate the business landscape. But every company is saying this. Your competitors are saying this. These types of deliverables and claims are simply the baseline to even be considered as an option for a customer.
These terms are also based on an internal company perspective. For example, many organizations measure “on time delivery” based on when the product leaves the factory, not when it arrives to the customer.
The companies that focus on following their competitors, rather than engaging the customer, often struggle to differentiate and compete within the marketplace. They work on expanding their portfolio of products and services based on competitor actions, and continually find themselves behind the curve.
While traditional methods of business growth are all viable revenue sources, they are typically the same approaches the competitors are using. Unless the organization simply plans to just do these things “faster, smarter, and better,” there’s not much real difference between you and them.
Where companies can increase the gap from the competition is by starting to understand and embrace their customers’ needs, instead of solely their own.
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