This may sound a bit obvious but it is amazing how low on the scale of considerations people, aka customers, rank, in the context of the annual business plan which many people are starting to to work on in January. If you are doing your business plan, you will be looking at budgets, spreadsheets, stock-turn, resources, what you want from your customers.
What about asking your customers what they want from you? Do you ask customers for feedback, do you ask them how they feel about your company? Do you meet their expectations? How do they perceive you? How do they perceive what you offer? How do they think of you in relation to your competitors? What do they like about doing business with you? What don’t they like. Do they do business exclusively with you or do they shop around? Do they feel like they have a relationship with you? Do they feel like you know and care about them? Do you know and care about them?
Maybe its time to get a consultant in to ask a few questions of your staff and customers. Why? Because they have no skin in your business. They have no emotional baggage and if you have given them permission to talk to your customers, because you care about them, you might learn some very interesting information that could drive your business forward in 2013. Even just the fact that you are asking them will impress because that doesn’t happen very often.
Traditionally all business was about customer relationships. These days many companies even pay lip service to staff relations and focus on product and profit.
In his recent book Public Parts, Jeff Jarvis (which I recommend you read) says, as “an investment strategy, I’d bet money on start-ups that put relationships at their center, so they can disrupt old, closed industries.” “I’d buy the stocks of companies that know me well and play well with others.”
Disrupt or be disrupted will be my catch phrase for 2013. What are you going to do differently? How are you going to work out what that is? My recommendation, talk to a consultant, get a perspective from outside your business, find partners like Imersia (disclosure I am a founding partner) who are a marketing services company on the leading edge of technology with amazing ideas for most industries. Bottom line, commit to putting your customers first, showing them that you really do care about them and their needs, and do something different. Share a comment here and let me know what you are going to do differently this year.
I’ll leave the last word to IBM today: