I did a post last week about the importance of knowing your customer, your end-user. Sometimes your end-user and your customer can are one and the same. But sometimes your customer is the one paying you directly for your product and the end-user, person using your product, is someone else. Either way it’s important to know everything about both who is paying you directly for your product as well as who is using your product.
Engage & Engage Often
To obtain the necessary intelligence on your customer and user base you need to engage with them. And you need to engage with a big enough sample that is representative of the markets into which you sell. It’s not sufficient to read about the markets or just speak to a few customers or end-users. So if you’ve penetrated vertical #1 and are planning to penetrate vertical #2 you’ll need to talk to enough potential customers and end-users in each of the 2 verticals. By engaging with enough current and potential customers certain data points are repeated and a pattern emerges. Depending on the type of information you’ve obtained, the pattern can represent data on usage, behavior, a specific feature set, etc. Identifying patterns helps you better leverage similarities between verticals. Pattern identification also enables you to better sell to, market to and develop product(s) for a vertical.
Once you obtain a rich base of information about your target market(s) you can analyze the information. The market intelligence you’ve gathered helps you make more informed decisions on product development, sales, marketing and even corporate strategy.
Grow Your Knowledge Base With Your Customer/End-User’s Life-cycle
It’s important that the engagement you have with your customers and end-users is at scheduled intervals and throughout the life-cycle of each the customer and end-user. Each contact with a customer and end-user should for a specific objective, e.g. gauging customer satisfaction, gathering feature requests, etc. Each contact you have with a customer and end-user builds on the information gathered previously. This helps not only in creating a rich knowledge base but also in fostering a stronger and more loyal relationship with your customer and end-user base.
How is Based on What
How you engage with your customers and end-users is dependent on what is the purpose or goal of the interaction. For example, if the goal is to learn how your sales people are performing then you can have customers rate their buying experience through a survey. Overall there are four big buckets of things you want to understand about the markets you’re selling into:
- how the businesses operate (when selling to consumers you’d need to understand their behavior, life-style and what “a day in their life” looks like);
- how & by whom buying decisions are made (including who has influence over the decision);
- how your product is/could be used & valued;
- how your product compares against competitors.
It’s helpful to first build the type of questions you need answered for each of these 4 buckets. You can then engage with your customers and end-users in multiple ways to obtain an accurate and comprehensive representation of these 4 buckets for each of your customer and end-user profiles.
Processes = Rigor
It’s important to be disciplined in engaging with customers and end-users. A set of processes with accompanying goals, frequency and schedule help implement rigor. And it’s also important to be disciplined in communicating the information internally so it’s routed to the correct individual/team/department. The market intelligence gathered can then be considered in the important business decisions you make every day about your sales approach, customer service, marketing, product development and even corporate strategy.