Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Customer Selection: strategy as choice

Selection, Not Tunnel Vision
Social media reinforces what B2B marketers have long known.
Targeted communications to select customers can create an
on-going dialogue, grow into deeper conversation, create bonds between
customer and dealer and company, and affect a conversation to loyalty.

It has been our experience that, by looking at proper customer
selection, effective data-based, loyalty-focused, business-to-business
marketers escape the kind of tunnel vision that results in
traditional mass-media attempts to send one watered-down
message to an entire, undifferentiated universe. Instead, they find
that they are able to invest more budget in highly targeted
communications to the segments most likely to become loyal
These companies have the tools to become more active relationship
managers with both dealers and end-users. They educate their
organizations about the needs of individual segments, continually
enhance the delivery of products and services, develop targeted
offers more likely to draw a response, and better allocate resources
in the design of sales territories.
And, since they’re talking to each customer’s specific concerns, a
dialog is established; relationships are formed; satisfaction, growth
and profits follow; and, with them employee performance and
morale are increased — reinforcing the feedback loop that leads to
a sustainable competitive advantage.

Mapping touch points: How complex is your B2B customer decision process?

Your customer-buying decision: how complex is it?

The CFO of a multi-billion dollar, multi-national recently told me that his #1 objective was to simplify & reduce the complexity of his business. Another Chief Strategy Officer wonders how his customer, colleagues, and competitors can absorb and intelligently make use of the complex technology that now seems to control his marketspace. If our leaders feel some “pain” relative to complexity, does this complexity affect our customers’ experiences? And, how does this product/service/technology complexity affect buying decisions?

How does the complexity differ or change when we move from B2C to the B2B world? And, how does social media alter the decision making and the customer insight?

In the B2C world, Apple seems to have mastered the complexity / simplicity challenge in all that it does: computers, phones, iPods, and iTunes. Think about the last time you visited the iTunes store. Apple’s customer experience management process is the ne plus ultra of complexity made simple, made seamless, and made to create satisfied, loyal advocates of its customers. And, with today’s launch of the iPad, Apple seems to have done it again.

While automation or technology exists to assist with this exercise, we suggest an approach based upon mapping – actually identifying on paper – how, when, and why - a customer (or, prospect, etc.) comes in contact with your company, its products, services, and performance issues. It’s an approach that has been around for a while, and it also is one called out in the recent book Answering the Ultimate Question, (cf., pp. 97 ff.) from the founding partners of Satmetrics.

When was the last time that you mapped the various touch-points, and life-cycle progressions, that your company has with its customers? There are two famous articles that readily come to mind. “Staple yourself to an order” was perhaps the first to treat the subject. Fred Reichheld’s “customer corridor” (in The Loyalty Effect, pgs. 201-203) may have been the next significant, and the more famous, exposition. My sense is that “practitioners” have gotten better over the last 20 years in understanding their customers’ buying behaviors. But in today’s world of social media’s strong incursion seamlessly coupled with multiple buying and communications channels, companies must master mapping their customer experiences if they are to provide outstanding customer experience and relationship management solutions.

We’d love to hear back from those of you who have starting their customer mapping work. Once the mapping is done, however, there will be work to do! Cooperation and coordination across all functional areas will become even more vital for the company that wants to demonstrate that it truly is customer-focused and customer-based.