Kissing the Customer's B**t.
Sometime during the last 10 years or so we entered the era of customer- centric marketing where the majority of articles published on business success led with the mantra, ‘Putting the customer first’.
This used to mean giving the customer what they want, but is that still true today?
In an interview in New Scientist , Donald Norman (author of the book The Design of Everyday Things ) said "You don't do good software design by committee. You do it best by having a dictator. From the user's point of view, you must have a coherent design philosophy..." Margaret Rouse/ Tech Target.
Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Virgin, Oracle, Dell, didn’t start by surveying what users want, they created a vision and innovations for what they believed users should have.
But where do you start?
Author Simon Sinek identified a selection of large scale enterprise businesses who had excelled and even went as far as to identify what he believed had led to their success - The Golden Circle. Start with why, the purpose, cause or belief that makes you do what you do.
Unsurprisingly, Sinek choose Apple as a benchmark and I’ll leave it there….no I won’t.
Apple are sexy, cool, hip, right? I mean they have all the right assets in all the right places so that must be a good thing?
But what else? What makes them different?
Apple makes what we want, right? Wrong - Apple makes what they want - many of us just happen to be like-minded.
They make what they want because they believe in themselves, they have insight (important), they have a vision that they follow passionately and from that passion comes dedication, commitment and determination.
How many of us said I wish they would do away with the headphones socket and give us a lightning connection instead?
It’s not us telling them what to make, rather, they are interpreting data on how we use what they give us and making it incrementally better until a light bulb moment from all that data gives them a breakthrough.
When Apple holds an event – people turn up to listen - why? Because they believe they are going to be told something mind blowing, something exciting, different, even challenging.
So my first question is, if business are successful by sticking to their why rather trying to adapt to the ever changing ‘wants’ of their customers, should we revisit our engagements with them?
Rather than asking them what they need, should we be telling them?
Firstly, let’s look at the relationship between supplier and customer.
This relationship can be a complex, dynamic eco system - with customer and supplier often having differing expectations or no desire to engage at any meaningful level.
Creating an environment of mutual benefit is key to a healthy relationship, and that relies on both parties (in particular the supplier) having something useful to say.
Harvard Business Review identifies seven profiles of customer.
Out of which their studies have concluded that today’s high performers in sales teams target only the top three – these people are called Mobilisers.
Go-Getters. Motivated by organizational improvement and constantly looking for good ideas, Go-Getters champion action around great insights wherever they find them.
Teachers. Passionate about sharing insights, Teachers are sought out by colleagues for their input. They’re especially good at persuading others to take a specific course of action.
Sceptics. Wary of large, complicated projects, Sceptics push back on almost everything. Even when championing a new idea, they counsel careful, measured implementation.
Mobilisers don’t respond to needs diagnosis and lots of questions, They don’t want to be asked what keeps them awake at night, they’re looking for outside opinions experts to share insights about what their company should do, and they’re engaged by big, disruptive ideas. It means sales winners have meaningful dialogues designed to disrupt, inform, inspire and ultimately create need.
So should we be telling customers what we think rather than just asking them a load of open questions? Hell yes! That’s what they pay us for. Think about the people you have met that have stood out from the crowd and their characteristics? Chances are they had more than just good questions.