I find it quite amazing how few of the people I work with and interview truly know their clients. Both client and market intelligence are critical in having a successful business and moving the needle forward.
Some of you may have had clients that have been with you for some time; in fact, some of those clients may have developed into friendships. For the most part, that is not the case because in today’s world most people keep to themselves and are extremely busy and don’t have the time to grow those types of business/personal relationships. I find this situation to be more and more prevalent, but that’s a bridge we all need to cross.
Ponder this for a moment…
What are your clients thinking? What processes are they using to make their buying decisions? Face it. The sales and marketing process of today has changed dramatically. Buying cycles are longer. Companies are using teams to make decisions which further extend buying cycles. Budgets are tighter and clients must know and expect that every dollar spent is measured. This further supports the notion that we must do things differently in order to remain competitive and profitable.
Going to Market…
What is your marketing strategy? Dropping off a catalog and the latest self-promotion pen, crossing your fingers, hoping the client or prospect says, “wow, order me 1,000 of these in blue…?” This is old school thinking and while you may get a hit once in a while, there are better methods. Additionally, this method pigeon-holes you in the client’s mind as being nothing more than a product provider.
Understanding Your Client Base…
In working with industry clients, we do a complete analysis of their current clients charting each company’s gross sales, gross profit, number of orders, average order size etc. This is done establishes a baseline and launch pad for greater market penetration.
When was the last time you looked at your clients in this manner? Where are your best opportunities? What market segments give you the greatest return and profits? Give it a try; you’ll be amazed at your finding.
Developing a vertical and lateral marketing structure will aid you in becoming more valued and relevant in that space. With time your name and company can go viral making you the go-to company in that specific market.
Furthering this process, we begin to analyze the nuances of those verticals – challenges, trigger points, hot buttons. Each of these becomes areas of opportunity to help your clients and prospects.
When we understand the client and their specific needs, we become more relevant. This level of engagement and understanding leads to loyal clients, more sales and great profitability. MAKE NO MISTAKE, it takes work. With a diet, you must retrain the way you eat, sleep, and exercise; similarly in business, you must retrain your mind and activities to be more client-focused and relevant as opposed to finding the next slick widget with your client’s logo.
One client, who happens to be a dear friend now, has embraced this concept with amazing results. Working in one of the most depressed areas of the country, he has managed to take their business from $350K at 35% gross profit to over $750K at 52%+ gross profit. He is such a testament to the process. Note too, there is nothing special or unique about my friend, however, he does understand that to be successful you must reinvent, engage and become relevant. He masters it.
How do you fare…?
Most people are either too busy or afraid to ask clients how they can improve. It reminds me of a quote from former talk show host Dick Cavett. “It is rare the person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear”
I encourage each of you to survey your clients quarterly. You will uncover some amazing data and information that can help you better serve your audience. I always look for ways I can improve, not just accolades – it’s true we do work hard, but there is always room for improvement in this area.
Years ago, I remember surveying my clients, and one of my top five clients gave me a horrible review; in fact, they were on the way to replacing me. Through this process we were able to address his concerns, right the issues and maintain him as a client for many years, tightening and strengthening the relationship.
Making it work…
As I initially said, analyzing and reinventing is hard work, but once in place as a part of your culture the process becomes smoother and easier to execute.
Take the time to get to know your clients, study their industries and become more relevant. Doing so, will create a more solid business model for you and your clients will love you for it!
Cliff Quicksell, MAS
Cliff Quicksell & Associates