There are volumes of books, articles, blogposts, classes ….tweets .. on what it means (and requires) to be a customer-centic organization (I just googled “customer centric” and got 1,880,000 returns). Every highly paid management consulting firm in the world makes boatloads of money in this space. But quite frankly, is it really that hard?
Okay, I admit that the things that are obvious are often the most difficult. Some of the “easiest looking” exercises my personal trainer puts me through are the toughest. Moreover, when I proposed my research on “How to Construct a Unique Value Proposition” it was met with “but isn’t that obvious?” and it’s now my most popular note (that and “How to Craft the Perfect Elevator Pitch” .. another painfully obvious topic, right?).
So how do these obvious things that “everybody knows how to do” get off track? Well, there’s a whole other industry on that topic as well. But for now, I’ll stick with customer-orientation and some simple advice:
1. When you write your market messages, imagine a real live customer. No, no .. I mean a REAL customer. One with a name … and a checkbook. For example, I started writing a piece for CEOs the other day. Then I thought, “okay, let’s say I’m actually saying this stuff to Jeff Immelt or Jack Welch, or Warren Buffet.” Wow, I tore it up and started over. Half my copy fell into the category of “stuff they already know.” When you imagine your copy being read outloud by a real customer, you tend to sharpen up and get real.
2. When you engage in an activity that you think is worthless or of borderline value ask yourself, “Would a cusotmer be willing to pay for the activity I’m engaged in right now?”
3. Talk to people, not companies. Companies don’t buy your product, people do. When you market, sell, tweet, blog .. or whatever … who are you really talking to? If it’s the CIO, acknowledge what CIOs are going through. If it’s an IT infrastructure manager, same thing…. or an HR professional, or the cleaning service. One of the best things you can do? Think about how and why your target buyer will get a raise this year. What would your target buyer need to do to get a promotion? Now, go write to that. Stop talking about how you’re going to increase profitability, improve business performance, or reduce costs, unless of course, it’s in the context of how these things help your buyer get a raise or get a promotion. Or how they stay employed. Knowing this one thing will change your messaging bigtime.
4. For Pete’s sake, stop starting every message with the word “we” or “our” or your company name. If you’re customer-oriented, and I’m sure you think you are, why does every sentence of your web site copy begin with the word “we”? Start with the customer’s situation, not yours ,..because
Marketing is not about you and it never will be.
Someone asked me the other day to direct them to a web site that I consider customer-centric. It was an easy answer: EchoSign. I’m not endorsing their product in any way, but seriously, they have the most customer-centric web site I’ve ever seen. It has customers everywhere. You’ll be hard pressed to find any paragraph that begins with “we.” EchoSign’s VP of Marketing, Loretta Jones, doesn’t do anything in a context other than what customers want and need .. in the context of her product of course.
So cancel your expensive consulting engagement on “Becoming customer-oriented” and start doing these things. If you’re a marketing manager, start leading by example. When someone answers a question with the word “we” .. ask them to re-phrase it. If they think you’re nuts, help them out. If someone says, “We are going to have the highest traffic of any booth at this trade show” try something like ” buyers will come to our booth in droves because we’re showing tangible evidence of how Insurance providers improve claims processing throughput by 50% or more with our solution.”
When you ask customers why they like you, they will rarely talk about your product. Try it. You’ll see that they tend to talk about the results or business outcomes you helped them achieve. Marketing managers spend so much time crafting the perfect message, usually about themselves .. when lo and behold, ask your customers what they think. There’s your message.
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