Once you get a grasp of your customer’s mindset, the rest is gravy. The key is to gather your team, focus on the deepest strategies that maintain your target audience, and don’t ever let them go. Getting ahead of what your customer is thinking requires a commitment and dedication like no other, and in doing so, you’ll reap the rewards for a lifetime as a business owner.
When it comes to your customers, there’s several ways to get into their heads and plan accordingly. Here’s what this whole thing is all about:
- Plan, organize, implement your strategy
- What works and what doesn’t
- 5 ways to stay one step ahead of your customers
Plan, Organize, And Implement Your Strategy
You’re doing all the right things. You’ve chosen your target customers wisely and found a set of needs you can solve for them better than anyone else can. Or so you think. People and teams across your organization are doing their best to make daily decisions that meet or exceed the requirements your customers value most.
And you’re constantly re-evaluating and stopping processes that aren’t matching your target experience. But, are you doing everything you can to stay one step ahead of your customers? The key is to plan, organize, and implement your strategy. Without a solid focus on the outcome, there’s no way you can maintain a step ahead.
Despite the best of intentions by many business owners, you’re usually so busy working on the existing problem for customers, which is a good thing, that you have little time left to look at what’s next, which is a bad thing. Looking at what’s next is key. Meeting the next, or evolving needs of your customers can be the difference between a company that stagnates and one that flourishes with profit over the years.
What Works And What Doesn’t
It’s not rocket science, but it does require going deep into the ins and outs of who your customers are and what makes them tick. If something in your company strategy or analysis is amiss, it’s time to rethink and regroup with your team and restructure the marketing plan. What works is typically an organized method, a commitment to loyalty and trust, and adhering to your original mission statement.
What doesn’t work is continually implementing changes that take awhile to process and leave the entire team in a flux, not to mention how each transformation rattles the cages of your most sincere and trusted customers. Stay on track, gradually enact a change if needed, and keep everyone on the same page. Your customers need consistency.
The 5 Ways To Stay One Step Ahead Of Your Customers
So how do you stay one step ahead of your customers? Here are five ways to consider:
1. Set up or tune up effective feedback mechanisms
Make sure you have effective channels in place for your customers to provide real-time feedback on your products and services and their experience. It is a basic concept, but having an email address at the bottom of your e-newsletters where customers can send you feedback is important, as is listening to where your customers need to vent their frustrations or share joys.
Sometimes this valuable customer point-of-view gets “stuck” in marketing and never makes its way back to the people on the operations side who could really use it. Your voice of the customer or other feedback mechanisms are only effective if you leverage them.
2. Identify customers’ next problems, needs or desires—not products or services.
Every day, what you solve is more important than what you sell. Yet too often leaders in business listen or look for the next product or service a customer mentions, or lean too hard on projection analytics. To stay a step ahead of your customers, observe or listen for the unmet needs, unsolved problems or unquenched desires of your existing and target customers. This is a serious untapped demand for you. Customers may buy if you push the next logical product, but they will be more loyal (and likely more profitable) if you solve the next problem.
3. Find the alternative to you
Think about all the products and services a customer could reach for instead of yours. Remember that your customers are contemplating their own set of options. Push yourself to think of all the alternatives to you that your customers would reach for if they could. Imagine all the alternatives to social media platforms that found new customer support in the last few weeks. Don’t wait for a problem to open your eyes to alternatives. It’s up to you to be the instigator and find them, or create them yourself.
4. Pay attention to existing customers
Many businesses get so caught up with the new customer that they fail to pay attention to their biggest advocates, which is their current customers. The shiny, new customer is compelling, they’re full of new opportunities. However, existing customers have demonstrated a belief in your business, and are most likely to give you real feedback on what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next. Take advantage of your existing relationships before you start trying to mine new ones.
5. Find out who your competition is, and what they’re saying about you
Who are your biggest fans and your most strident detractors? Detractors might be bloggers, or industry influencers on Twitter or some other widespread publication. Some might even be existing customers. Therefore, it’s your job to translate what’s being said into actionable lessons about what’s next. Stimulate a conversation about your brand, company, product or service, and remember that your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
As customers’ needs evolve, your job is to anticipate the next need. Ask yourself these questions: How have these ideas worked for you? Do you have other ways to stay one step ahead of your customers? If your answers are confusing and unreliable, chances are you need to go back to the drawing board and set up a better plan.
It’s possible. It simply requires diligence, patience, and commitment to get ahead of what your customer is thinking.