The Best Way to Make Customers Listen

How do you make customers listen to you, when you have something you want to tell them? The very best way to make customers listen, is to think about who you serve. Everyone serves someone, and if you’re in business, any business, you serve your customer. Universities serve their students. Corporations serve their customers (even before shareholders, or the shares won’t be worth much). Once you know who you serve, there are four more things to do, to get customers to listen:

  1. Listen to them first. Hear their aspirations, their challenges, and their concerns.
  2. Tell them that you’ve heard them, so they know you are listening.
  3. Back up what you’ve told them with action.
  4. Share the results.

Once they know that you’re willing to put them first, they’ll listen. You won’t need to ask twice.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m a Partner here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions for their businesses and careers. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – and we’ll also send our weekly post along with some other useful tidbits, direct to your inbox – just click the handy button, below.

Three Marketers Walked Into a SWOT…

Does that sound like an interesting discussion to you? Trust me, it was! Early this morning, I got into a conversation with two marketers I know only from social media (and that we have connections in common). It started with someone poking fun (nay, mocking) a marketing plan template. One aspect of that template was the SWOT analysis, and there was a lot of talk as to whether the SWOT was no longer relevant. 

Now Steve and I are both fans of frameworks. They give teams a common language to approach an analysis, so you can stop disagreeing about how to look at what’s going on, and simply look at what’s going on. They also provide constraints: don’t bother finding data that doesn’t answer the questions required for that framework. (You can always use that data for a different framework. Just don’t force-fit stuff where it doesn’t belong).

On that note, we also had a sidebar on templates that are created by head office, your boss, or some other wise guy, that (a) requires data that isn’t available in your branch-plant country, or (b) solves a problem that isn’t relevant to your context, but rolls up to a bigger template that serves someone else, somewhere else. Don’t do this to people. But if it’s been done to you, the best way to come up with numbers for the missing links is to triangulate.

Anyway, I digress. I stood up in defense of the SWOT, not because I think it is always the best framework, but because I believe it is a mis-maligned framework, and that often what doesn’t work about it are two things: (a) teams try to stog too much into their SWOT, and (b) they’ve been mis-taught how to use it best. So here goes:

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s meant to help you think about where you are now, and where you might go (and what could happen to you along the way). The first error teams make, is to mix up Strengths and Opportunities. Or Weaknesses and Threats. It’s about looking through the right lens.

Strengths and Weaknesses are about you (and by that I mean your business, your product, your team). What strengths does your product have? What weaknesses? Are you with me so far? These are internal factors. Opportunities and Threats exist once you leave the safe harbour for open water (or open your front door and go outside). Opportunities are things you can achieve or places you can go. And threats don’t come from inside, they come from the outside factors. Yes, if your culture is broken, you’ve got an issue. But that’s something you need to fix within your own house, not something that’s outside of your control or might impact you whether you want it to, or not. Got it? Excellent. I knew you would.

All this is to say, frameworks are one of the best ways to get people on the same page, fast, to make better decisions. They also can be one of the worst kind of hammers to wield when you’ve convinced yourself that everything is a nail. So proceed with caution. (And if you’d like to talk about which frameworks to use to answer your burning questions, let’s talk).

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients make #betterdecisions, sometimes using frameworks. You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. And for insights delivered direct to your inbox on Fridays, you can sign up using the orange button, below. 

How to Piece Together Your Customer’s Story

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How well do you know your customers? Have you undertaken a big research project recently, to gain some in-depth insights? Or have you fallen prey to the not-really-correct school of thought that “Steve Jobs didn’t believe in market research, and that’s good enough for me?” The truth is, neither of these approaches is right. There, I’ve said it. Could it be that famous marketer Steve Jobs was wrong? Yes, sort of. (And about a few things, I might add). 

The truth is, getting to know your customers is an ongoing process. As you launch your business, you need to build an understanding of your targets or prospects. It’s a green field. All you will have to rely on is research. From that point forward, though, you need to constantly be piecing together different layers of intelligence to understand who they are, how they work, what they want, and why they do what they do. Asking them to connect the dots won’t work. It’s not their job to do your work for you. (That’s the kind of research Jobs was right to reject). Instead, give them an opportunity to have free-flowing conversations with you. Let them talk about their aspirations, whether they are directly related to what you want to sell them, or not. Then have some conversations with constraints. Give them things to compare, and try to understand how they select, sort, and prioritize. Look at what you can learn from “unresearch” – sales data, notes from interactions they may have had with your service workers, or your product team. See what they do with other people who sell them things. Find out what delights them when they’re not at work. 

Customer understanding or user experience research is more than simply testing a product or website and seeing how it goes, as a one-off. It’s about building a rich mosaic from many tiny fragments of information. If you throw it all into a database, or a central file, or don’t try to sort it at all, you’re wasting an opportunity to create something beautiful. But if you categorize it, move it around, and look for connections, you may start to see forms and patterns that make something out of what seemed to be nothing. Find ways to sort all your customer data, and you’ll usually find you have a rich mosaic of understanding, sitting right on your shelf, in your hard drive, or floating around in the cloud. And like a mosaic, look at it up close, then stand back, and observe it from a distance. I’m sure you’ll discover things you never expected, that will help you create whole new customer focus, and grow your business, whatever it is that you make or do.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. A customer insight audit can help you and your team to use what you already know to build a solid foundation for this year’s business strategy. If you’d like more insights, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, or sign up for weekly ideas, tips, and offers using the orange button below. 

Our client asked us for less!

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A week or so ago, we had the most refreshing experience. It made us feel amazing. Serene, even. 

One of our clients asked us for less. Now, we always try to go the extra mile with our clients, and if they are new to us, and we’re working on a project, we try to show them all the possible lines of inquiry we might explore, to learn more about their customers or prospects. We prefer a very open journey, but if someone doesn’t know us, they might have trouble seeing how that will work out. So imagine our relief when the client called and said, “I like where we’re going, but don’t you think we will get a richer result if we ask very broad questions and then probe as the respondent takes it in their direction, not ours? 

Yes, yes we do. Thanks for asking us that. Constraints can be useful. But questions that will take the discussion in the direction you want, rather than where the respondent wants to go, are likely to end up with you feeling like you didn’t learn anything new, and simply confirm what you already belief. The lesson? Open yourself up to simplicity, if you want a richer, more meaningful result. 

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. If you’d like us to help you see everything that’s really important to your prospects or customers, let’s talk. You can find all our contact information here on the website. And if you’d like regular insights that will spark ideas you might not have been thinking about already, you can also find us on LinkedIn, on Twitter, or on Facebook

Even market research is about pleasing your customer!

Sometimes a phone call with a new market research client begins like this:

Client: “Do you do focus groups?”
Us: “It depends. What do you need to understand?”

It might also include some of this:

Client: “I’ve got a deadline to meet. How fast can you get this project finished?”
Us: “How fast can you do your part in framing your needs and doing your prep work?”

When we’re asking these questions, we’re doing two things. The first is to narrow down as precisely as possible, what the client really needs to see in order to take an action or make a decision. (That’s why we say we help you see everything you need to know to make better decisions. You don’t need to know everything. Just all of the relevant things. Secondly, we need to do the most important thing, and it’s this: we need to make your customer’s experience with market research as comfortable, even delightful, as possible. That means not pushing them so hard that the process is frustrating or annoying for them. It means working to timelines that work for them, not only for you. It means having them say (to us, if they’re a live interview or group, or in comments, if it’s a survey), “Wow, that was really interesting!”, or “The time went by way faster than I thought, that was fun!”

Why does that matter? It matters because your reputation depends on it. Even in double-blinded research (much of what we do keeps the client anonymous to the respondent, as well as the other way around), the person doing the answering will speculate about who’s doing the asking. And they’ll make assumptions about the organization they believe is doing the asking. So if we have them take time in the middle of their workday, or in their busiest week, or we nag them incessantly to participate, it reflects badly on us, and very possibly, on you. If, at the end, they feel like they’re being treated like some sort of lab rat, it’s not happiness-making. Reputation management and customer relationships are as important in research as in everything else you do. 

So the next time you’re planning to do customer research, we’re happy to use a variety of methods to get the answers you need. (Often we will recommend that you combine one or two, for precision and richness in what you learn). And we hope you’ll take our advice when we also recommend ways to make it as pleasant as possible for the most important customer of all – yours. 

I’m Megann Willson, and along with my partner, Steve Willson, we’re PANOPTIKA. We’ve spent decades getting to know our customers, and yours, and we’re always happy to help you find more ways to excite them, delight them, and keep them coming back for more. You can find more content from us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or even Facebook. And if you’d like ideas, offers, and opportunities delivered straight to your inbox, the button below is where you can sign up.

Imagine Your Customers Forgot Everything They Knew About You…

…even the best parts!

Last night I saw the movie “Yesterday” with Himesh Patel, Lily James (oh, and a couple of other small names like Ed Sheeran and James Corden). If you like rom-coms, it’s a must-see. Do bring some tissues. It got me thinking, though, about how often clients make assumptions about what their customers know about them. If you have a B2B relationship, you may have a long sales cycle. What do you do in between? How will they remember? Could someone slip in and broadcast your entire catalogue of hits without anyone realizing it was actually created by you? (I’m giving away a lot of the plot here, but trust me, there’s more to the story).

If you have a product with a long cycle, you need to think carefully about how to keep those big-ticket customers engaged. One way, of course, is to send them emails or connect using social media or other types of communication. It’s also worth engaging anyone they interact with in between purchases, like customer success, service and support, shipping, or even (yes, I’m going to say it) the billing department. As an aside, we once worked with a partner of ours on a win-loss project, and the billing department was responsible for a number of lost accounts, because they were more concerned about maintaining their process, than developing one that was easy for customers. 

There’s a lot of push marketing in all of those activities, of course. Plenty of KPIs and other dashboard inputs. But what if you really engaged them in a conversation that wasn’t focused on selling? What if you let them talk about their objectives, what they want and need, their struggles, what’s important to them? Two ways to do this are to

  1. create a customer community, or
  2. build a customer advisory board.

What’s the difference? 

A Customer Community is a place where your customers can come together and engage in conversations with each other. And it had better be interesting, because no one, especially not your customer, wants another long, boring meeting, virtual or otherwise. Really, do you even want to invest in something where your customer puts the phone or laptop on mute and pays more attention to their cheese sandwich? The best communities let them contribute something, learn something, see that you trust them to talk to each other and engage with one another without you trying to drive the conversation.

In a Customer Advisory Board, they know that the goal is for them to help you sell more product and do a better job of delivery. It’s more focused, and may even involve their strategic advice about how and where to recruit more customers just like they are. They might provide insights into buying cycles, responses to changing industry regulations, and more. They may even introduce you to someone else who should become a member. 

Every business wants to find more customers, and to use research to understand customers – but keep customers? It’s surprising how little time and effort they invest beyond good old push marketing tactics. That might just be the thing that can sets you apart.

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or a better frame of reference. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.