I’m excited to share with you this first installment in my three-part series on how to maximize customer insights and feedback to inform your strategic planning process and guide business decisions.
Few would debate that customer insight is an essential part of formulating your business strategy. A customer-centric strategy is no doubt a winning strategy.
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.” Mahatma Gandhi
While there are many ways to use customer insights, and I’d like to focus on five specific ways to leverage insights that help you increase value and drive growth.
Jobs to Be Done
First, let’s start with what Clayton Christensen, the late Harvard professor and renowned authority on disruptive innovation, coined “jobs to be done.” Clayton’s concept of jobs to be done is that “customers don’t really want to buy your products and services; they hire them to do a job.” Understanding the job to be done is what matters most.
Why is this important?
Products and technologies come and go but jobs to be done persist.
For example, let’s consider the job to be done of “help me create and share my letters and correspondence.” These solutions evolved from pen and paper to typewriters to word processing machines to computers and tablets. If you were a large manufacturer of typewriters and defined your business as “we make typewriters,” you would eventually see your market evaporate.
However, if you understood what job your customer was trying to get done and defined your business by that job to be done, you would open to strategies that would provide the best product or service to help your customer with that job.
Understanding jobs to be done also helps you identify your real competitors. Using the typewriter example, by moving from defining your competitors as other typewriter manufacturers to looking at who else provides solutions for “helping people document letters and correspondence,” you get a comprehensive picture of who your competition is.
Gaining insights from your customers about how they view the job to be done can also open opportunities to differentiate yourself in the market. By having a deeper understanding of the customers’ experiences in acquiring the products and services to help them, you can create the essential products and services that ensure the customer has a perfect experience regarding that job to be done. You will evolve from a product brand to a purpose brand so that customers ultimately think of your brand when they need to “hire” for that “job.”
Customer Journey Mapping
Another great way to help you gain insights that will make you more valuable to your customers is to use customer journey mapping. Mapping is also a great way to understand more deeply the “jobs to be done” approach that we just covered.
So what is the goal of a customer journey map? A journey map will document how customers experience your business through various stages of their journey. These stages include the awareness stage, occurring before a customer has even interacted with your brand, and continue through to the retention phase, understanding how they experience your brand after the purchase.
By documenting your business from the customers’ viewpoints, you can identify pain points to alleviate and opportunities to create more meaningful value for your customers.
Customer journey mapping can be as straightforward or as complex as you let it become, so here are a few considerations:
Start with mapping just one critical customer segment.
Know your goal. What insights do you want to gain? Not all phases of the customer’s journey are equally important, so prioritize based on impact.
Remember that this is the customers’ journey, and you should document the experience from their perspective.
Talk to customers! You can draft up the journey as you think it is, but the point is to talk to your customers to find out the truth and where you have gaps in their expectations and your performance.
Use data where possible to enrich your understanding of the customer journey. Besides talking to customers, look for places inside your organization where you have quantitative data such as net promoter scores, cart abandonment rates, and customer service satisfaction scores.
Customer journey mapping will illuminate those moments of truth in your customers’ experiences and highlight opportunities to create more value for your customer that will ultimately drive sales. Click on the button below if you’d like a download a PowerPoint format of this customer journey map template to use as an example.
DOWNLOAD the B2B Customer Journey Map Example
As part of most strategic planning processes, companies will define the organizational and business capabilities required to execute strategy and meet business goals. They will also assess how well they perform these capabilities to address gaps in performance.
It’s essential to test the internal evaluation of your capabilities against the perspective that matters most: your customers’ assessment.
Survey your customers to understand how they think you are doing concerning these capabilities versus the competition. Ask your customers how important these capabilities are to them to ensure you know what truly matters most.
In my post, “If Sales Growth Is Priority, This Process Needs Your Attention STAT!“, I provide a complete guide on evaluation capabilities and how to use customer feedback on those capabilities to identify growth opportunities. I also include a Capabilities Analysis Download you’re going to want to have in your toolkit, so be sure to check out that post.
One of the best ways to identify competitive threats during your strategic planning process is through your customers’ and potential customers’ lenses. Management teams will typically do an internal competitive assessment which is excellent. But it’s impossible to set aside our own biases to get a truly objective assessment of the competition and the threats they impose.
How your customers and potential customers view the competition is the only perspective that matters. Here are some ways you can leverage your customers’ insights:
Talk to your customers about the best practices they see from your current competition and other players in different industries.
While it’s essential to stay in touch with how your best customers view your competition, it’s equally important to talk to your customers who do more business with your competition.
They will know what your competition is doing and will be able to provide more objective feedback on what they do better than you.
Most importantly, talk to the customers you do not have. Make sure you understand how your prospective customers view your competition. What are the best practices they experience? What do competitors do that you are not willing or unable to do? What would have to happen for them to consider your products or services?
You’ll learn more about competitive threats from the customers you don’t have than you ever will from your best customers.
Identifying potential disruption trends is one of the most crucial responsibilities of strategic planning. It’s also one of the more difficult things to do. But disruption is usually an opportunity long before it becomes a threat, so how can you identify disruption early in the process and capitalize on it?
Yep, you guessed it: listen to your customers.
Disruption typically begins at the low end of the market via two examples:
From lower-priced entrants that are “good enough” for the lower end of the traditional market who are overserved by existing solutions
New Market Disruption
From lower performance entrants based on traditional attributes but better performance in other features that bring new customers into the market
Use customer insights to spot disruption by talking to customers at the lower end of your market. Find out:
What performance attributes are most important to them, and what alternatives are they using to solve the “job to be done”?
Talk with the customers you have lost and find out what substitute solutions or workarounds they are using.
Look at new entrants in your market that bring new customers into the lower end of the market. Understand their value proposition and recognize that they may be lower performance now and not perceived as a current threat to your core market.
But know that their performance will evolve and improve (it always does) and recognize what this will mean to you as they grow their share along the way.
A customer-centric strategy is paramount to a successful business. Strategic planning is the perfect time to dive more deeply into understanding the market and identifying your opportunities by listening to the voice of your customer.
In part two of my three-part series on customer insights, I’ll share five best practices to help you get the most from customer feedback. Why don’t you sign up now for my insights so you don’t miss this valuable series?
If you’d like help mining and leveraging your customer insights or if you’d like guidance creating a focused roadmap for growth that clarifies priorities, aligns resources, and ensures the successful execution of strategic goals that will transform the organization, please contact me.
I’d be grateful if you’d share this article with anyone else you think would find it helpful!