By Bob Wise, President FreeConferenceCall.com
Many companies today are focused on becoming customer-driven or customer-centric enterprises. The terms usually refer to a process of deploying business strategies throughout an organization to better understand and serve customers. That’s an admirable goal, but reshaping company culture can be a daunting task and many fail to get past fielding a few customer surveys or creating a customer advisory board. Others make great strides with their customer-facing workers, but fail to integrate back-office staff.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur with a new idea, a project team leader or an executive adjusting to new market realties, research around successful customer-driven ventures indicates there are three key strategies that contribute significantly to success. These strategies offer guidance for everything from creating the business model to retaining customers and letting them help you find new areas for growth.
Aim to Make a Lot of People Love You
Lots of companies hope for viral success, but very few create business models that require it. YouTube is full of great examples of momentary sensations, but the only real path to long-term success is carefully attracting, nurturing and harnessing the passion of a large group of fans. This path starts with a truly unique product or service and must be backed by an entire organization that understands the mission and provides consistently great service. And while it may appear word-of-mouth successes are created overnight, the reality is usually a steady build where every new customer is on boarded with care, every new hire is carefully screened to fit the culture, and customers are encouraged to be brand advocates at every step along the way. A great example of success here is Amazon Prime. Amazon took a real gamble launching a service that could only succeed if a large number of users signed up and bought just the right amount of the right products. It was a big risk that paid off with more than 40 million passionate members who now spend 2.5 times more on Amazon than non-members, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
Keep Your Promises – Even if it Impacts Revenue
Your customers’ perceptions of the value you provide is paramount. If a customer signs up for your service or buys your product with certain expectations, those expectations must be continuously met in order to secure a long-term relationship.
It’s easy to start out with a customer-friendly mission, but harder to stick to it under revenue pressure from markets, boards or investors. Take the example of the Netflix pricing change in 2011. Its customers signed up for a flexible service (mail and streaming options) at a value price. Sensing they were leaving money on the table, Netflix decided to force customers to choose just one service or pay 60 percent more. That move cost them more than a million customers and 50 percent of their company value at the time, according to reporting by the Young Entrepreneurs Council. Sometimes however, initial hard decisions end up being the right move in the long run.
Go Where Your Customers Lead You
It may sound like Business 101, but you can never underestimate the importance of understanding where, when, how and why your customers are using your product. The information can come from customer surveys and advisory boards; but you need to make sure you also make time to interact with customers, watch what’s happening on social media and also mine your customer data to uncover trends or opportunities you may never have considered.
FreeConferenceCall.com, started as a tool that enabled anyone – from small to mid-sized business owners, non-profit organizations, educators and politicians — to connect and collaborate with audiences of any size around the world for free. We built a large and successful business serving these customers, but a recent deep dive into our customer database revealed we also have a lot of individual users inside nearly all the Fortune 500. That discovery opened up a new opportunity for us to work with large enterprises to provide conferencing and collaboration access to more of their employees and lower their overall spend. As we organized to take advantage of this opportunity, we created a new division and revenue stream to deliver all of the customized services required by large corporate users. In essence, we followed our customers straight into an entirely new growth area for the company.
If you’re a budding entrepreneur with a great idea or a market leader looking for a new direction, you can never go wrong focusing on the needs of your customers, earning their loyalty and following their lead into new markets.
Bob Wise, is President of FreeConferenceCall.com where he focuses on creating team focused, positive cultures, building customer relationships and devising innovative strategies to drive revenue. Wise was instrumental in the recent launch of FreeConferenceCall.com for Business. For more information, https://www.freeconferencecall.com/for-business.