To continually drive both innovation and business growth, you truly LISTEN to your business customers and prospects.
What does “Listening to business customers” mean?
Listening to your business customers is about gaining an in-depth understanding of the objectives, priorities, requirements, pain points and buying behaviours of the main participants (the Decision Makers, Influencers) in a B2B buying purchase decision.
Why is it important to listen to your business customers?
Listening to your business customers enables your start-up or SME to identify precisely where it must BUSINESS innovate.
In other words, what areas of your business that you must either introduce something new and/or make significant improvements.
3 areas where your start-up or SME may need to innovate its business
A. What your company delivers to customers (i.e. your product or service offering)
Achieved through product or service innovation.
Examples: Introducing new tailored solutions or service enhancements, providing strategic advice
B. How your company delivers to customers
Achieved through process innovation or organizational innovation
Examples: Developing new or improved processes, Delivery of your offering and/or service and support through joint ventures or partnerships
C. How you engage customers/ promote your business
Achieved through marketing innovation
Examples: Using customer advocates (advocacy marketing) and industry experts (influencer marketing)
Companies that achieve sustainable high growth (i.e. 20% or greater over 3 or more years) innovate across multiple areas!
How to “Listen to business customers”?
There are 4 effective ways to deeply understand business customers:
• Executive Interviews
• Customer Advisory Panels
• Decision Maker Summits
• Strategic Customer Reviews
Each of these is briefly described below.
A. Executive Interviews
• In-depth discussions (usually face-to-face) with the executives of your current and/or prospective customers
• Enables you to read and respond to non-verbal cues such as body language which can reveal their true perspective
B. Customer Advisory Panels (CAPs)
• Involves meeting with a small group of customers (usually 2-3 times per year)
• Helps you to identify growth opportunities, emerging customer needs and trends as well as gain input and feedback on new offerings and service models
*For further details on CAPs, refer to our blog post, “Customer Advisory Panels: A Key Ingredient to Business Loyalty and Growth.”
C. Decision Maker Summits
• Also referred to as roundtables or forums
• An invitation-only event you host to discuss issues, challenges and aspirations that are important to decision makers within your customers, prospects and key accounts
• Enables both your company and guests to learn about each other and generate ideas for growth opportunities
D. Strategic Customer Workshops
• Workshops involved cross-functional representation both from your company and your customers and prospects
• The aim is to have in-depth discussions about your product and service offerings, what is needed in terms of enhancements, modifications, support and service requirements
• Particularly effective for highly technical and/or complex offerings
Tip: Consider using multiple approaches to build both a deep understanding of your customers as well as a strong relationships-both of which are needed to drive business growth.
Take action now
Pick your top 3-5 business customers or prospects
• What do you want to achieve with them?
• What are some of the major gaps in your understanding of them?
• Which of these methods could be applicable?