A few weeks ago I wrote about the relevance of Theodore Levitt’s Marketing Myopia today. Many of these observations seem obvious. We’ve all known for some time the central role that the customer has in business. But this doesn’t always translate into listening to the voice of the customer when it comes to product development, improving operations, marketing and customer service, among other areas. I’ll be speaking on a panel discussion on this topic later this month at an event for Saint Louis University’s Institute for Private Business. It’s a subject worth significant discussion, and here’s why. Just because we know something, doesn’t mean we put it into action. In fact, it’s often the most obvious truths that sit dormant in our minds when they should be driving our day-to-day actions.
So let’s take a moment and think about your customers. What are some ways that you can make sure you’re truly listening to the voice of your customers? Take marketing, for example. How much do you talk about your company in your marketing efforts rather than letting your current customers define your value and share that with other customers? Certainly, with social media you have little choice but to hear what your customers are saying. (It’s possible that you’re pretending that by not participating yourself, you’re hoping they aren’t participating, either. This doesn’t work, by the way). Do you engage your customers in social media channels? Is your sales team connected to all of your customers on LinkedIn, are you responding to customer requests and compliments on Twitter, are you commenting on customer blogs? There are a myriad of ways to simply acknowledge customers in the social media outlets that they are most comfortable with, and you might be surprised how much you can learn by just being part of the channels that are important to them. Of course you may know all of these things, but do you have a systematic process for making them happen?
The customer voice should be heard throughout all marketing efforts, sometimes literally and sometimes more subtly in the descriptions of benefits of your products or services. While we all understand the concept of “Like Attracts Like,” it’s easy to forget how important this idea is in a business context. If I’m an entertainment company considering the major purchase of a software implementation, I want to know that this software will work in my unique environment. I may want to talk to a current entertainment customer, read a case study, and see specific use cases to validate that the software understands “me” as a company. Of course, it helps to also read an industry trade article featuring the exact scenario that I plan to implement and to hear it again from a speaker on stage at a conference. The greater the perceived risk of buying a product, the more the “Like Attracts Like” concept comes into play. In other words, the higher the perceived risk, the more pervasive the customer voice should be throughout all marketing. How are you making it easier for potential customers to buy from you by making their voice heard in your own company marketing efforts?
We all want to do business with companies and people we trust. Another reason to incorporate the voice of your customers is to establish trust with potential customers. We can toot our own horns only so much, the real believability comes into play when our customers vouch for us and proactively promote us to their peers. Why not facilitate a platform for your customers to do this more easily? We at Mercury Labs have a Customer Champion program that makes marketers out of a company’s current customer base. Many companies have similar programs. Asking for an occasional testimonial or writing a case study once in a while is not a program; it’s an afterthought. A successful program integrates the sales team into the process but puts the bulk of the work on the marketing or outside team to create an infrastructure to ensure a steady stream of new customer voice collateral, events and media.
It’s important to remember that just because something is obvious doesn’t make it easy. We all listen to our customers to some extent, or we wouldn’t be in business. But we need to take the customer voice and bring it to operations meetings, R&D discussions, marketing launches and every other area of business.
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