Now that’s something to ponder. Since so many of us go forth each day to thrash about the bushes searching for prospects for our products and solutions.
What would happen if the target of our desires wasn’t product or solution placement as much as it was developing prospects into becoming our customers. Our loyal and retained customers. How does that happen?
- It starts with customer conversations. About them, not you, your product, your service or your invention. About who they are and what goes on inside their heads. Not that deep-discovery stuff about why your solution is, well, the only solution they would ever need. Maybe you’re convinced. But your customers remain skeptical.
- Your customers don’t want your products, services or invention. At least not yet. Because they haven’t heard themselves articulate how your “stuff” fills some void in their “intangibles”: behavior, lifestyle, job, you name it. Even if your customers and prospects are currently using your competitors’ products. It’s not a decision they can make. Yet. Because it’s not a discussion they’ve had, yet, even with themselves.
- Your market should be based on who your best customers are. Best customers may not be the folks who currently buy your product. Your best customers are the folks for whom your product or service is designed, based on your knowledge of (you guessed it) customer conversations, early adopters, validation and vetting, design and redesign. Even if you are a mature company.
- You business is about modeling what you do to align with the folks you do it for: again, your customers.
The best companies, entrepreneurial or not, start the customer conversation and never end it. Ever. Even if the conversation isn’t pretty. Those are the best kinds of discussions. They are honest. If a customer is telling you exactly what they think – because you’ve asked them to, in partnership and in dialogue rather than as a frustrated rant – you’ve earned that honesty. Congratulations. There’s an opportunity to make your product or service better.
The best customer conversations may talk about products and services outside of your industry segment, and how their attributes successfully fill the void in those customer “intangibles.” Listen, instead of jumping to problem solve. You may pivot towards an even better concept than you started out with. Yes, you’re the expert. But your customer is expert at being the customer. Listen to them. Be open to what they are telling you.
The best business model incorporates customer mindset throughout. All of the customers that are involved from winning the order to receiving payment. The dialogue involves your internal customers as well as your external ones. Talk to them, constantly. Make them part of your journey. They are the target, as well as the vehicle, of achieving your objectives.
Think what a loyal and retained customer base means to your business model. It starts by working with your customers and teaching them what it means to be part of your business. And they, in turn, will teach you what it means to be their supplier.
It all starts with that first, not-to-be-avoided, customer conversation.
What are you waiting for?
Learn more about customer development. Do YOU Mean Business? Technical/Non-Technical Collaboration, Business Development and YOU is available on Amazon.com, April 2012. Click on the book title and enjoy!