A Friendly Reminder

I pass it along to you because I just got it myself.  The reminder is to never, ever forget to talk to your customers.

And by “talk to” I mean ask questions and then listen.  Actually little talking involved on your part.

As marketers we spend alot of time talking to our customers.  Sending out materials, calling them, and interupting their day with emails, ads and other communications.  Sure, sure…we may ask them their opinions and needs along the way.  Yet kudos to you if you spend time getting real qualitative feedback from your customers, and use that knowledge to change things for the better.

And by “change things for the better” I mean taking a good, long look at (and listening to) their communication preferences, creating products or services that fill unmet needs, and changing products or services you offer now that don’t meet needs very well (or could meet them better).

Some customers have different communication preferences — you need to find a way to respect those preferences and build your strategy around their preferences.  Stop expecting your customers to build their preferences around your strategy, budget-based decisions or skillsets.  And if your products or services aren’t fitting needs just right, grab a whiteboard and sketch out a better way to make them fit.  If they’re too expensive, find a way to add more value.  If they’re missing something, find a way to add it.  If they’re one-size-fits-all, find a way to segment — maybe there’s a brand extension in there somewhere.

Anyway, I just held one of the bigger events in my portfolio, and had a lot of quality face time with customers.  That feedback was a greater source of rich ideas than any quantitative survey has been (at least this year).  And honestly, that’s the way it’s going to be in the future.  In the middle of a busy day, week or life, quantitative surveys are proving hard to sell to customers.   So when you have face time with customers, use it wisely.  I held a focus group with 12 customers (in return for a great lunch), and separately I had meaningful conversations with at least two dozen others.  I am so ready to charge ahead with great ideas, and feel confident and energized that they will serve my customers’ needs.

If you’re a marketer, feel free to siphon off some of that energy and go spend time talking (i.e., listening) to customers right now.  If you’re at an agency, do the same thing even faster — it provides the kind of insight that is hard for clients to argue with.

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