What would your customers say?

September 10, 2009

Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to engage in interesting conversations about important marketing questions with leaders from three different types of businesses ranging from a not for profit, to an education solution provider, to a consumer packaged goods company.  In all three cases, the leaders were trying to make a decision about a particular communication tactic they should employ or about a new product they should consider offering.  In each of my conversations, the leader asked me for my recommendation of what they should do, and each time I answered with the same response, “Well, what would your target customers want?”  In each conversation, my question was met with an ‘a-ha’ expression by the business leader, as if a light bulb had just been turned on.  My question suddenly seemed to provide them with a little bit of inspiration, guidance, and perhaps even a little bit of relief.

Because this situation happened three times over the course of two weeks, I thought it might be worth discussing in this post — just in case anyone else might be wrestling with a similar decision.  It seems possible that when business leaders are developing strategies, innovating, or even choosing tactics to grow their business, they might sometimes lose touch with the end goal that is at stake — fulfilling their target customers’ needs.  The leaders might get so tied up in certain details, processes, or norms, that suddenly the customers get out of their line of sight.  When the end goal of best serving the customer target is no longer in view as a guidepost, it can make the overall decision-making regarding the strategies and tactics to employ much more difficult to make.  At the very least, I know that this was the case for the three leaders I interacted with.  When I was able to remind them to bring their target customers back into their line of sight (or in other words — focusing on fulfilling their customers’ needs), it suddenly made the decision-making path much more clear to them.  Granted, they still didn’t know the optimal choice for each of their decisions, but they at least knew how they could begin to get to the right answer — by talking to and understanding the needs of their target customers (i.e. doing some research).

So turning these situations to a more general application, I would encourage all business or marketing leaders to check themselves as they make plans and decisions regarding ways to grow their businesses — just to make sure that decisions are made with their impact on the target customers in mind.  Even in the cases when delivering exactly what the target customers would want isn’t feasible, at least going through the exercise of considering the target customers’ needs can often highlight a nuance or option that would optimize the decision.

So what are some of the plans and decisions you are considering right now?  How will these impact and meet your target customers’ needs?  What would your customers say?

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