Now is the perfect time to start speaking to your customers and refine what and how you are offering your products or services. With people’s routines in upheaval and new needs evolving everyday its more important than ever to find out what your customers are thinking, feeling and doing.

The needs of society are being transformed right before our eyes. The elderly and disabled are being given their own shopping hours, baking has seemed to make an all-time come back with flour being raided from shelves and of course the major need that kicked everything off and signalled the beginning of the apocalypse, the need for toilet paper.

If your chasing sustainability and growth for your business in this rapidly changing environment, then focusing on the needs of your customers is the most certain way to get there.

Add 60% on to your bottom line. Is that a better figure to what you’re pulling in now? Or perhaps the future is so uncertain you’re not sure what the rest of the financial year has is store. Research by Deloitte and Touche, states customer centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies without such a focus.

With a customer focus you’ll be in good company. This little gem is from Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder.

The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be earth’s most customer-centric company.”

It’s hard to argue that there isn’t value in being customer focused. Especially when you are quoting a guy that makes variably $11.5 million per hour. That’s right per hour, it’s not a typo.

Business Insider Australia states “Amazon has 14 leadership principles that guide its employees’ business decisions, but founder Jeff Bezos said just one is the “secret sauce” to the trillion-dollar company’s success. Focusing on what customers want or need has driven many of Amazon’s most profitable business moves.

“The No. 1 thing that has made us successful by far is obsessive compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession over the competitor,”

Bezos said in a talk at the Economic Club of Washington on September 13.

Using your data to analyse customer needs?

The problem with using data to analyse customer demand is the lag. By the time you’ve got the data to make a decision the needs may have changed . That’s how quickly things are moving. It’s also tricky to predict where customer behaviour will go.

If you have an in depth understanding to what is in the heart and minds of your customers, then you will beat any algorithm.

How to get started.

It’s simple. For an organisation to become customer centric we need to connect to the customer. The simplest way to do this is by talking to them.

I embark on customer empathy interviews regularly and I have a 100% hit rate on uncovering invaluable insights about customers and their needs. It helps organisations validate their ideas or their gut feel for the right solution and it erodes the uncertainty in making tough business decisions.

Once you have the key insights it’s about refining how you can better improve your service, your customers experience or you may uncover a huge slap in the face opportunity that helps you design a whole new service. Put simply, it helps you meet the needs of customers. The “secret sauce” as Bezos terms it, to success.

Ex-President Barack Obama making calls himself to voters from a local campaign field office in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Get customer centric in 4 days

Here’s how I can help.

Day 1-2 – I Start interviewing your customers

Day 3 – Write up a complete customer insights report to help you understand your customers and their motivations

Day 4 – We hold an on online workshop with your team to get creative and find new solutions and new ways of doing things

It’s time to get human. Organisations need to understand their customers and jump in their shoes. If you’d like to chat more about how to design solutions for your customers send me a message. I’m here to help.

Welcome to the H2H era. The human to human era where the recipe for success lies in our ability to identify the needs and understand the mindsets of our customers instead of the old ‘have I got a deal for you’ tactics.

One of the most common questions I get asked after delivering presentations on anything to do with marketing is “what is the difference between B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) marketing”.

Which means if I’m a business how can I market my products or services to other businesses rather than to consumers. In fairness this is a valid question as a lot of marketing advice and tactics are focussed on getting messages out to consumers. My argument doesn’t normally come as too much of a shock to my audiences as I’ve normally spent 30 mins before had talking about human centred marketing.

The response is this…… marketing now needs to unwind itself from theories of interruption and spruiking wears. We are no longer in the soap box era of come check out this latest gadget that will set your hair on fire.

An old pic of a soap box

Instead we are in an era where this has been done to death and frankly as humans, we are sick of being told what’s great about a product. We have grown up in the consumer age where this is all we’ve heard and quite frankly as a society we’re over it.

When managing my own marketing team back in the day I’d often hear it said, “everyone thinks they’re an expert when it comes to marketing.” Often this came after a big unveiling of the next campaign or promotion that promised to deliver big results. At the conclusion of any unveiling what often happened was the marketer was left standing at the front of the room putting their hard work on a silver platter only for the rest of the team to pick, poke and tear it apart. Then if that wasn’t enough, they’re asked to go back to the kitchen and drench it in tomato sauce.

Why… well often the marketing team works in isolation and they work with external creative teams who never come in contact with a customer. They then set upon their campaigns like its secret squirrels’ business. When the final unveiling happens it often lands as a surprise to teams who feel they are the ones accountable to hit the targets and the feedback is that this isn’t the support they had in mind or it simply won’t hit the mark.

I watched this many times and have experienced it myself, but I always impart my view which is that ‘everyone IS an expert in marketing’. This is for so many reasons. In a workplace often marketing is often the last step and is necessary for launch instead of being involved from the get-go. Everyone should be on the same page of the same book, in the same library.

In a wider picture we’ve all grown up in the consumer era where products promise outstanding results, tourism promises the trip of a life time, investing will get you the life of your dreams and unfortunately marketing has done a good job in making all of this look convincing. So now we look through the too good to be true promotional offer. We look for the truth, we seek out reviews, we talk to people to find recommendations because nobody wants to be caught out.

That bigger picture view is what led me to the conclusion its not B2B or B2C but human to human? What I mean is that the principles of successful marketing are the same. If what we are offering fulfils a need (a genuine need, not one dreamed up on a whiteboard) and we have an authentic offering with a positive experience and genuine marketing message then success is imminent.

Businesses are made up of people making decisions every day. So whilst the social platform might change or the time of day you post what we need is to look beyond tactics. How are we meeting a persons need. Does it really matter if they are in an office behind a desk or at the grocery store? A need is a need. If we dedicate our time to uncovering more about our customers and get into their shoes to uncover WHY they buy, what they need to buy or how they want to buy then this pays off in the long run.

“The premise of human-to-human marketing is one human buying from another. It taps into the human psyche and helps you form a broader and more complete form of marketing that can exceed almost any other form.”

Sarah Davies

So here’s some quick tips on how you can start embracing the human to human era.

Key tips

Define reality

So many times we get carried away with our own ego’s when someone comes up with an idea in a meeting we hit the white board and we all spend the next 30 mins convincing ourselves why this will work. Of course this is often in isolation from society, trends, the market, adjacent markets, competitors, company culture, short and long term plans. So take it from the whiteboard and get out there. Get a team together to tear the idea apart then build it back up again. Talk to some experts, talk to some customers. Just talk!  

Harness the horse power your in your stable

Before you go out and start marketing and outsourcing to creatives challenge the team inside your organisation to validate so called ‘whiteboard idea’. Get some data, historical evidence, and most importantly some analysis of what problem you’re solving.

Get the opinions of your sales or service delivery team. This data may not be quantitative, but you’ll find quality insights from teams in the thick of it. In other words, people directly connected to who you are trying to sell to. Three words collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.

Ok, ok I know its one word repeat 3 times, but you get the message. It’s important.

Don’t forget to say thank you

Look at your post-purchase experience. What can you do to amplify the positive experience you’ve just provided and better yet ask how else you can help. Many organisations will step away from the post experience analysis but this is such a valuable way to unlock opportunities for future business growth, future relationship building and future referral.

The post-purchase feedback will be the key conversation that will unlock all the opportunities you can improve on for you future customers experiences. Then rinse and repeat.

So you’re about to endeavour on your marketing plan. Where do you start?

Have you googled your marketing plan template full of headings like market opportunity, competitors, SWOT analysis, promotional plan, and social media schedule. You could be working for months and still be working on the plan. It never seems polished enough which holds back your execution.

Here’s a novel idea. Throw it out and just spend some time thinking. Take your shoes off and mentally put those toasty tootsies into the shoes of your customers.

Now you might be in an organisation with a plethora of data. Great! Get your digital team to give you some insights as to what the individuals who are visiting your website look like. They may have heaps or limited data but go with what you’ve got but don’t stop there. Use this as a guide but do some more reflection.
Look at your current customers. Who are they, where are they, what do they do but most importantly how do you help them. You might have a few different types of customers. People from different sectors, people who fill different roles and that’s ok. Who is typically your main type of customer and what the subsets of your other customers.
You might come up with 3-4 typical types of people. Now let’s give them a name, age and start thinking about the action they take before they find you. Think about their worries, their pain points and their aspirations.
Now have a chat with these customers. What language do they use? How do they talk about your product or service? Now you’re onto something.
Use this intel, this data, this skunkworks mission insights and think about how you can reach your customers differently…. Key word is differently. Think about what you are already doing and do something new.
Don’t start planning your marketing until you know more about who…. (as in the individuals, the people, the Geoff’s, the Mary’s) you are talking to.
B2B and B2C is irrelevant. It’s H2H. Human to Human. The context of consumer or business may involve different tactics or methods but marketing at it’s core is about communicating to people whether in a business or consumer environment.
Start with you customer in mind and the rest gets a bit easier from there.

Conversion rate optimisation, Pay per click, omnichannel, evergreen content, referral marketing, digital marketing, responsive design, call to action, search engine optimisation, lifecycles, inbound, chat bots, sales enablement, lead scoring, content creation, social media schedules, boosts, sales funnels, affiliate marketing, organic reach and ………………….. bbr-eathe.  

The way we communicate (or market) to potential customers certainly isn’t as clear cut as it used to be. We’ve reached new heights in complexity. The bad news is, we are nowhere near the peak and instead we’re more likely to be just at base camp. As the most informed yet distracted consumers that ever existed our focus will only continue to decentralise from the one or two major social media sites to many, many more. As marketers this makes reaching your customers in a timely and cost-efficient manner well, tricky. Not impossible, just trickier, more involved and more demanding of creative new approaches.

Then there is the widening chasm between marketing teams and leaders of organisations. KPI’s for marketing teams demand that we are across all the analytics and every metric we can get our hands on. We can often report these in the most polished spreadsheet and presentation fit for any global audience but what does it all mean, really? We need to make this relevant and this is where at times some teams can struggle. Leaders don’t have time to delve into detail and that’s all that the marketing team know how to provide. This is where as marketers we need the ability to be able to simplify our explanations of what we do and almost act as interpreters for ourselves. We need to constantly question our statement with so what? We increased our reach by 34%… yadda yadda yadda. So what? What result did we have in new customer activity and perceptions?

Make it relevant

Relevant to our business development teams who need insights to make sales. Relevant to our R&D teams to provide clear focus. Relevant to the leaders of the organisations who need to know the big picture and how it relates to their role and influence in the industry.

Most of all what we do, needs to be relevant to customers. We need to analyse the information and go one step further. How about we ….. ok wait for it. Talk to our customers, face to face. Talk to them about their journey why they used you, how they found you, why you and not someone else. Will they come back? Ask why or why not?

Let’s not fear the connection customer centricity brings. It’s the one thing that will give us a breakthrough moment and a better result. Let’s start testing what we put out there and stop making our communications polished one-way messages that we hope they read and understand.

The best brands in the world spends thousands researching how to be relevant and they don’t always hit the mark, but they go to the extra effort to understand their consumers and the reactions of their initiatives.

What I’m suggesting is we start testing small and connect with a customer to gain feedback. We could go the extra mile to co-design if we have a significant project. That’s a whole other blog ;o)

Customer Focus

Customer profiling and journey mapping are now well known in the digital marketing space and it’s a great way of aligning the design of our website and structure of our sales funnel and even knowing the language to use. Here’s my pursuit… let’s take these initiatives off-line. Let’s take this energy, focus and time and look at our entire organisation.

Look at the core problem we are solving for our customers and how well coordinated and aligned our services are to their expectations and needs. You’ll find some of the solutions lie with marketing, but some might not be. What a customer journey mapping session will do is highlight the changes and improvements you can make to keep your organisation true to its brand promise.

Break free of assumptions

We (as marketers) don’t know everything, and we never will from behind a screen. We can analyse the data we can make assumptions we can identify trends we can predict. Heck we can do a lot with data. I love data but I only love it from the insights we gain from it. Without insights and the ability to apply them they are just numbers.

The best marketing comes from authenticity, an ability to connect and heck even a sense of vulnerability. Let’s stop pretending we are the guru who knows it all and instead take the time to talk to a customer. Open our minds and let’s be more curious about why they make the decisions they make. Break down the barriers and let’s get to know our customer. They will help us unlock how to attract more people like them. Without customers innovation, disruption and all things termed success are impossible.  

Hey this is Liv, thanks for taking the time to read my article. I created Liv By Design to help organisations connect with their customers and empower them to create their own marketing strategies.

Digital is important, social is important and we often jump to these tactical solutions to gain new customers without taking the time to really identify and understand your customer and their needs. If you start your marketing strategy with your customer, you’ll have a more refined idea of who you are targeting and the best methods. This will cut your marketing costs and help you stand out amongst the crowd of brands that are grasping for audience attention.

At Liv By Design I ensure the process is simple, developing a marketing strategy in line with all the other conventions of your organisation like culture, customer experience and customer service.

Not sure if you are tackling your marketing, right? Maybe you’re a busy marketing team who just don’t have time to connect with customers? Give me a call I’m always here to offer obligation free advice.

Key-Person Dependency is the term used when a business is heavily reliant on the knowledge, relationships or skills of an individual or a very small number of people. (Often the business owner or owners). Typically, this is found in SME’s, however, it can be found in organisations of all sizes.

Let’s put this in straight forward terms. Are you a business owner or manager? If something happened to you tomorrow (god forbid) and you couldn’t work would the business survive?

The loss of an owner or key operator can be a real blow to a business.

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to key person risk as they often take on all the business functions or maintain control of all the business functions. These can include all aspects of sales, marketing, operations, HR, accounts and the list goes on.

There comes a time when the risk of burn out becomes very real.

But before we get to some helpful hints let’s look at the importance of small business to the community.

Over 97% of Australian businesses are small businesses. That is they have between 0-19 employees. It’s a large and vibrant sector which is vital to the health of the Australian economy. Small business accounts for 33 per cent of Australia’s GDP and they employ over 40 per cent of Australia’s workforce.

Now to bring this a bit closer to home to WA the State Government reports that there are 224,270 small business who contributed $48 billion to the WA economy. 491,993 people are employed by small business in WA and 41% of the private sector workforce is employed by small business.

So as a collective we’re looking at a sector which is the heartbeat to business but they’re in a high risk situation where their business is dependent on them. Not only that, as individuals they’re left feeling as though everything is up to them. When you’re in this situation somethings got to give and their personal lives often suffer.

So how can business owners start working on their business (being more strategic) rather than working in their business?

What we’re about to suggest here is embarking on the beginnings of succession planning so that small businesses can grow and then sustain that growth, without them. They need to move from being the technician to instead and trying to do everything to overseeing the business.

Collaboration

Yep, it’s a simple one but we’re not talking about drinks and an early finish on a Friday. We’re talking about working together and using team cohesion to deliver the best services or products possible to your clients. Nothing brings people together like a common goal. Your strategic goals for the business should be shared with the team so they understand where the business needs to go and what role they need to play in that.

Empowerment

Once your staff understand where the business is going and what their part is you can then ask them to start thinking about how they can deliver on the goals. Why ask them? Isn’t it quicker to do it yourself and just tell them? In short no. By handing down a strategy with what they ‘need to do be doing’ we liken it to giving a kid a map of an amusement park and telling them they need to follow it and not get distracted on the way. It’s hardly engaging or fun. Instead get them to give you the answers. Let them think about what they want to achieve and how they plan to get there. Listen to their ideas. Let them have a few wild rides and trial some things. If it doesn’t work then move on to the next trial. Before you know it you’ll find new ideas spreading. You’ll find engagement at an all-time high and you’ll have staff that aren’t dragging themselves to work to follow a manual.

Encourage open communication

We heard that mumble under your breath. “What I just let the staff run wild and do what they want and try new things? They could ruin me!” Okay not exactly. This is within reason and within resources available. By encouraging open communication if one of your team come up with something that may never work hear them out give them the opportunity to talk through it and if you have an environment of open communication you will find that someone will critique the idea and bring them back to reality. In amongst that wild idea you may have an element that could be simplified or adapted to work.

Automate your process

Yep, we just got boring. By automating processes, it not only saves you time but it also ensures that more people can be capable and easily trained to complete day-to-day tasks.

This is where big business excels. Large organisations are twice as likely to innovate in the area of operational processes as small business’. (Reported by the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Commonwealth Government.)

Capture your customer data

If you got great sales and business development personnel ensure the details of your clients don’t leave with them. You should own and control all your client records.

Business owners need to invest in their future and the future of their business by empowering their staff and setting up processes that help people move towards one common goal. This will allow their staff to feel like they are contributing. They’ll feel more included and confident and they will be more likely to go the extra mile. They’ll be happier at work and in effect happier people in general.

Here’s the mic drop. You’ll not only be responsible for uplifting your team but you’ll also free yourself from the treadmill of business problems and tasks and instead rise above this and start looking ahead into the possibilities of the future of your business and for yourself.

This article is by Olivia O’Connor, Founder of Liv By Design a creative business solutions company. Liv By Design is dedicated to helping business owners grow their business and start strategically planning their initiatives.
Through facilitated workshops Liv By Design harnesses the creativity of your workforce to achieve effective innovative results.