Monday, July 21, 2008

mission critical customers

How does an organization know what is mission critical? How does a company determine product line and improvements? Where does the marketing strategy, promotion terminology, sales approach come from? What kind of content should we pour into our ecommerce sites and blogs? What shall we say on Twitter and in TV commercials?

For competitive advantage and corporate longevity, surely the answer can only be: prioritize the input from the users. We must attract, interact with, and use all the feedback we can get from the customer. User data helps us identify, categorize, analyze, and sympathize with (interiorize) the customer. Then, as an axiomatic corollary, we must be with (become) the target audience.

Being near, extremely close to, the user is how innovation and, in hard economic times, sheer survival are achieved. What benefits and features do they want? How many of these demands does your product fulfill? What might they be desiring next year? In five or ten years? What products and strategies do you have in place, poised to reap large rewards in the future as experienced by your customers?

Customers will be critical of your mission and they're also mission critical. First, understand users and build a product based on, and evolving in light of, user goals and technological capabilities that may satisfy future user needs (i.e., features they don't want now, because they haven't imagined them yet, so you tell them why they'll want these advancements). Your second priority is customer loyalty based on always improving products and service. Next is customer acquisition, retention, and recruitment.

Customers who are critical to the mission's success are prospective customers, current customers, emerging customers, future customers, and current non-customers. Your appeal to all these customer groups begins with close relationships and keen observances of typical users of your products.

Your response should include social media applications, but prior to that, you need to actually roll up your sleeves, and get to where your customers hang out. Go to actual physical realm haunts. Coffeeshops, country clubs, outdoor events, industry conferences, hobbyist groups, work stations, command posts, and restaurants. Immerse yourself in their environments, and make some conversation with them face to face, one on one. After a lot of that, you'll be ready to visit them in their online communities.

Forums, blogs, wikis, chat rooms, vlogs, portals, ecommerce sites, wherever users spend time and possibly money. Where they communicate with one another and form alliances. These obvious and obscure locations are where you need to be networking.

But not as a commercial entity. At least not as you probably inherited the concept from old fashioned, pre-Web Twenty times. More on this later, aggregator.

No comments: