Get Close to Customers…From a Distance

hands reaching out of monitors to make a transaction

Even as the great re-entry begins, we’re all realizing that the way we do business will have to change. Probably forever. So how do you create those close ties to customers that have been proven to result in greater lifetime customer value, more referrals, and less push, more pull marketing efforts? How can you get that close to customers, from a distance?

First, you need to really reach out and understand what’s happening with your customers now. All bets are off. Any assumptions you had in the pre-pandemic days are gone. You might actually be at an advantage if you’re starting a new business – you won’t have to dismantle any old habits. But let’s assume you’ve had good customer relationships thus far. I hope you’ve stayed in contact during the quarantine, distancing, and slowdowns that have occurred. Whether you’ve decided to stop, start, continue, or change your marketing tactics and relationship approach, you need to validate. That’s not so easy if you can’t see customers in person, or as often, as you used to. (Partner Steve Willson has some excellent tips in this video, though. We hope you’ll like, share, and subscribe to the whole series).

After you’ve got the lay of the land, there are four things you need to think about:

  1. Is there someone I can refer to those customers, to show them I’m putting them first?
  2. How can I give those customers what they want, or solve a problem for them, before I talk about me?
  3. How can I reward the ones who have already purchased during this crazy time we’ve been going through, even if their own businesses or incomes were suffering?
  4. Who is in their network who could become a customer, if I can encourage them to give me a referral?

Just this morning, I was discussing with a client of mine, what changes they want to make in their business, and that the time is now. When everything is shifting, there’s no better time to make the changes you’ve known need to be made. Keep thinking about your customer first while you do it. (If you want to dig deeper into customer service, we highly recommend reading Shep Hyken’s Cult of the Customer). If we didn’t have customers, we wouldn’t have businesses.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better business decisions. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. And if you’d like to receive timely ideas and tips to help you find, understand, and engage customers, sign up for news you can use with the orange button.

When Convenience Becomes Inconvenient

When we think about marketing strategy, or even market research, we always think about one of the Four (or Five) P’s, Place. Place is about distribution. How does the thing get into the hands of your customer?

Our advice is always to make it as easy for the customer as possible. The omnichannel movement has preached the gospel of having your product or service be accessible everywhere and anywhere the customer is. It sounds very caring and good, in this season of giving. But recently, we’ve had an experience or two that has made us pause to reflect on that. 

I ordered a few items online from a large department store. I can get to said store in 15 minutes, honestly, but I was super busy, knew exactly what I wanted, and loved the convenience of having it delivered to my door, while I worked on something else. There was an online sale, and free shipping, making it even simpler. Fantastic, right? Here’s the thing…

The first thing that happened was a notification that the first item had shipped, but that the second was on backorder. These were very small items, size-wise. So the first arrived within a day or two, in a box more than ten times its size. Such waste! Oh, the poor planet. The other item said it was shipping a day or two later, but took nearly two weeks to get here. Tracking showed that it went from a warehouse in the west end, to a sorting station, to another station in the east end, and eventually, after sitting who-knows-where for the rest of the time, to my door, downtown. 

Now I, as a customer, was pretty patient. I didn’t need these things urgently, I just wanted to save myself the time and trouble of a trip to the store. But it did annoy me that the second item travelled all around the city. How many GHGs were pumped out while that occurred? And then when it arrived, again, a box many times its size. Neither of the items were breakable. They didn’t need special cushioning. The store just used the boxes they had, I guess. Either item could have easily fit in a padded envelope. 

My reflection was this: I did like the convenience. What I hated, I mean, really hated, the fact that these items travelled all over the city, and used so much packaging, by the time they arrived. And I think, if I had been given a reminder or even an incentive to come to the store, I might have done it. Heck, I know I would have, since I have been to the store at least once in the ensuing two weeks. And I might not have felt so guilty at the impact my perceived savings and convenience have had on the planet. 

So by all means, make it easy and convenient for your customer. But when making it easy and convenient for your customers comes at another cost, perhaps a higher-order cost that may matter to them, it’s worth reminding them of that. In the long run, we’ll all be better off. 

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA, along with Steve Willson. For nearly two decades, we’ve been helping our clients see everything they need to know to make better business decisions, using strategic research and expert facilitation. And today we’ve been married for 39 years. Happy anniversary! You can find more content from us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. We also share business news you can use, offers, and recommended links and reading every week. You can subscribe using the orange button, and if we’re not adding value, subscribe anytime.


Does public data really have value for your company, if anyone can get it?

Shouldn’t you skip right to your own custom survey? We’re always happy at PANOPTIKA to help you with custom research, but there’s really more to it than that. Even if you’re working in an industry like health, technology, or science (where we do some of our best work), where sometimes there isn’t much data, there’s always some. If you’re a new analyst in one of these industries, or you’re just getting into research for the first time (sometimes, until you start to scale, it’s easier and more informative just to ask the questions yourself), start with free or nearly free. Those public data sets get a lot of use – they’re the workhorses of the quadrant we call “the light”.  The answers there are available to anyone – and that  doesn’t mean they don’t provide you with any value or advantage.
Public data sets or  their slightly more expensive cousins, syndicated data, (which is not public, but is available to purchase by anyone who can pay), are a great foundation. They let you get the “lay of the land”. In “The Light”, you’re setting yourself up for deeper questions, making sure you don’t waste time and money on custom projects, if the information is already out there. Doing a good audit of the data you already have in house is where you can start to use data in ways that others can’t. Think sales data, observational research where you see how customers use your products (or the competition’s), and interviewing everyone in your organization who interacts with your customer or prospect. Where an outside consultant can help, is by assisting you in shaping the questions that you’ll use as you move to what we call “The Shades” – positioning or perception research is a good example. It can help you see where customers put everyone – not only you and your product or service, but your competition. And it can help you get ready to develop insights that are only known to you and your team. Not sure where to start with something like that? We’re always happy to jump on a discovery call. You tell us your questions, and we’ll work with you to lay out a plan to get the answers you need.
We’re Megann and Steve Willson, and we’re the partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with B2B businesses to help you get the answers you need, and to make better business decisions. You can also follow us on LinkedIn, on Twitter, or to get insights and ideas delivered right to your inbox, click the handy button, below. 

Which is worse? Sunk cost, or sinking your whole business?

Sinking ship Pendleton
We see startups and “stay ups” all the time, reaching a point where their costs are escalating as they work to get their product or service to market. Sometimes the issue is insufficient validation at the early stages. Other times, it can be that new information comes to light that wasn’t previously available – and it is a complete game-changer. The trouble arises when there has already been significant investment in taking the current route. Those sunk costs make it incredibly expensive reverse the engines or take a new tack. 


At times like that, it’s helpful to think of the current way forward as a metaphorical sinking ship. No matter how much you’ve invested, you’re better to get out with your life (and that of your product or service), than to hang on because of your sunk costs.

If you’ve sunk a lot of time and effort into your business, and evidence is making the way forward less evident, rather than clearer, we’re here to help.

We’re Megann and Steve Willson, and we’re the Founders and Partners of PANOPTIKA. We’ll work with you and your team to help you see everything you need to know to make better business decisions. You can find us on social media, too – on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Sign up for our weekly news before the next issue drops on Friday afternoon, using the orange button, and learn what else we’re learning by working with B2B customers around the world.