Align Your Growth With Your Customers.
Everyone has a theory on why some companies that were once king of the castle crumble into their own moat.
Mine is that they somehow failed to match their growth to their customer’s growth.
The entrepreneurial expressway is littered with the ghosts of products abandoned too late, companies who couldn’t change fast enough, and business plans that failed to acknowledge changing customer habits.
Remember the companies who believed consumers were going to stick with bulky eight-track tapes after tiny cassette tapes emerged on the market? Remember businesses who opened up movie rental stands on every corner and invested their fortune in huge stocks of VHS tapes after their customers learned how to download their own movies onto CDs?
Of course you don’t, because they disappeared over a period of time. We remember Kodak unable to adjust quickly enough to the digital camera world of course, but most of the others were less spectacular.
What this trip down memory lane is for is to send a gentle reminder to ask yourself today whether or not your own business is aligned with the needs of your customers. Or are you providing a product or service that stands soon to be replaced with automation or a better invention?
When you are an entrepreneur, it is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operation of your business that you fail to take time to read about trends in your industry or to book the occasional seminar that challenges your business model.
I’ve had the pleasure of consulting with many business over the years and through both successes and failures, I think there are two factors that always need to be watched closer than all the others.
When businesses fail, it is usually because they either confined their product or service to too small a niche or too broad a niche. Each one carries its problems.
If your niche is too small, you miss opportunities. A good example of that is historically the state of Canada’s troubled train systems. Their managers thought they were in the railroad business and kept thinking in those terms instead of realizing they were in the transportation business and broadening their scope of reference.
If the niche is too broad, you start trying to cater to a mass market. In other words, you try to please everybody and we all know how that turns out. To a large extent, that disconnection in my opinion is one factor behind the troubles at Sears.
Both of those mindsets happen when you focus more on numbers and spreadsheets than on what your customers are saying.
There has never been an easier time to listen to your customers. In our digital age, people don’t even try to be stoic if the service or products they expected are not up to par. They take to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all the other sites and make sure all their friends know whether they are happy or not.
How do you ensure that you are staying aligned with your customers?
Here are two basic things you can start doing today that will make a huge difference:
- Every time you think about adding a new product or service to your line, ask the one basic question that needs to guide your thinking: “Is this something that will add value to the lives of my customers? Is this something they will buy? Why or why not?”
- Monitor what is being said about you online daily and set up a process to talk regularly to your customers face to face.
As soon as I mention point two, I usually hear a chorus of “I’m too busy to check all those sites every day!”
Use the free service called “Google Alerts” (www.google.com/alerts/) to do the work for you.
Just fill out their simple form and they will email you the results for specific search terms such as your company name. Select “comprehensive” and “as-it-happens” and fill in your email. Then confirm your email. Then Google will send you an email. Click on it to complete your indication that you want the alert.
Then every time a reference is made to your company, you will get an email.
You can repeat the project and set up other alerts. I recommend tracking your products or services as well so you can stay informed about trends. You might also want to track your top clients so if something good or bad happens in reference to their company, you are ready to help them meet the challenge.
Is it a perfect system? No, but it is a very good one and it is free. And if you are not doing anything to keep that direct line open to your customers now, it is a great start!
Paula Morand, CSP is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold leadership expert and brand strategist brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and bold impact. 24 years, 25,000 clients, 34 countries, 14 books, former radio personality, 10x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
To check out Paula’s book, “Bold Courage: How Owning Your Awesome Changes Everything” go to Amazon http://ow.ly/i8yW307ix67
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