One of the key challenges that any B2B marketer has is to ensure that the customer is considered and put at the heart of a business’s plans.
Marketers try to think of the customer first – “outside-in” and using the customer’s words. That means aligning a company’s products and services with the wants and needs of its most valuable customers in order to maximise the customer’s long-term financial value to the business.
Customer orientation increases business. People buy from people they trust. A report for E-Consultancy shows that 90% of organisations that increase investment in customer focus noted that it increased their business’s profitability. At the end of the day, customers decide whether or not they want the business’s products and they pay the bills. And it’s brand-supporting. Businesses which have more knowledge about their end users are safer, more profitable, and distinguished.
Businesses may be prone to seeing customer focus as an alternative to business self-interest. In my view that is incorrect. We need to balance customer and business interests. Customer focus is not about just being nice, a high-level philosophy, treating all customers as equal, treating all customers as right, or ignoring the needs of employees, partners, or regulators.
You need to choose which customers and functions to focus upon. There are lots of different types of customer. Decision makers, senior contacts, day-to-day contacts, users, and so on. You need to prioritise. That means customer focus can reduce costs as if we can be predictive, responsive, and adaptive then we can know what our customers want to do and we can actively manage them across our portfolio.
How do you apply customer orientation to your work? Make it part of your objectives and values, discussed at your team meetings each month, data weighted equally with financial data. Identify your target customers and organise your team into market segments with responsibility for specific customers. Use customer focus to drive your innovation.
Research, research, research! Constantly collect customer information, put a formal customer management measurement programme in place, build a profile of your customers, map your customer journey around big tasks.
Train your team so that they understand how their job provides added value to the customer. Talk about the customer at all levels of the business. Spend time with customers.
Who does customer orientation well? Amazon places an empty chair in its board meetings to represent the customer and ensure customer focus at the highest level. Employees at O2 and Zappos all work in one customer-facing role each year. BA Gold Card customers get an improved customer experience by being diverted straight through to the airport lounge an away from the security and shopping misery. Meanwhile the experience of the standard BA customer gets worse, now having to even pay for food and drink during their flight.
How customer oriented is your business?D