How well do you know your customers?

Knowing your customers’ needs and challenges will help move from a vendor to a partner. Partners are leaned on for more and more business. Partners are called upon for new business.

Two Businessmen In WarehouseHow well do you know your customer? Not when his or her birthday is, or whether they play golf or ice hockey.

I mean do you know how well you fit into your customer’s success and how you can help them better meet their goals?

Selling to an existing customer is usually far easier than a new customer. An existing customer knows your quality levels, is probably OK with your pricing and delivery schedules, and may even be less willing to shop around for price.

Knowing your customers’ needs and challenges will help move from a vendor to a partner. Partners are leaned on for more and more business. Partners are called upon for new business.

Sometimes it is about what you know.

Who is your Customer?
  • Are they public or private?
  • Are they generally from certain industries?
  • Do they order in large volumes only prototypes or both?
  • Are they of a particular size (big or small)?

If you know the types of customers you usually win with, then you will better be able to figure out why you are winning with them, and (if you want) how to win more of them.

In a marketing class one day, the professor said if you know your customers’ zip code — you know a lot about their value system and how they make decisions.

There are “tells” in Corporate customers too. What are the common psychographic characteristics of your best customers?

What are your Customers’ current challenges?
  • Are they launching an initiative to reduce inventory?
  • Are they looking to cut delivery times in half?
  • Are their Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) too high and they are not as profitable as they need to be?
  • Or is it double-digit sales growth?

Knowing your customers challenges (hopefully because you are close enough that they told you) or because you read it in their financial reports, will help you be a better partner. Also, don’t be surprised if it’s a different challenge every year.

Example: Most of your customers are running 20% COGS — if you discovered one of your customers was at 80% how would you approach them? What internal challenges do you think they are having? What is the likelihood they off-shore to reduce price?

Why do they buy from you?
  • Because you are cheap? Cheap but long lead times?
  • Have great quality? They never have to return product.
  • Always on time? They know exactly when to order keeping inventory down and inventory turns up.

For each customer, is there a match between their current challenges and why they buy from you? If they used to buy from you because you were always on time, but now they are on a COGS-reduction plan, they may have internal pressure to move away from you and to someone with a lower price. Wouldn’t you like to know that?

Where in the Customer site is this type of purchasing decision made?
  • Are you talking to the right person for the Why?

The person with the job description that is accountable for COGS may not be the person who is accountable for total inventory turns. The person with on-time-delivery performance may be yet another person.

When it feels like your pitch is falling on deaf ears — then it’s a good indication you are talking to the wrong person in that organization.

Find the right Where.

Lynore Abbott of Logical MarketingThis guest post is by Lynore Abbott, Founder of Logical Marketing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Logical Marketing serves a growing need in technology product companies for a pay-as-you-go Marketing Department. With a broad range of expertise in strategy + tactics + execution, they provide focused, profitable results.