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Do you know who your target audience is? What are the best customer-centric strategies for attracting consumers?
If you don’t put customers first, you’ll end up driving them away, which will result in decreased sales numbers. To have a successful business, you must focus on customer-centric strategies that provide a positive experience for buyers.
With these five customer-centric strategies, you’ll better understand what customers want and how to offer great service.
1. Find Out What Your Customers Want
You may assume that you have a clear understanding of what your customers want. But you won’t know for sure until you ask them. So the first customer-centric strategy you must incorporate is listening to what your customers want out of your product or service.
When Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles (Raving Fans) talk about your customers, they’re not just talking about the people who buy your products or services. Even if you’re a freelancer or sole owner, your business has many internal and external customers or stakeholders.
External customers are the people who see your business as a provider of something they buy. They’re the people that you create your products and services for and bring in revenue.
Internal customers participate in your business and are invested in your success. They include your team members, departments within your business, suppliers, and manufacturers.
According to the authors, internal customers can be anyone businesses interact with to fulfill their responsibilities. In the case of a restaurant, the external customers are the patrons sitting at the table. In contrast, the internal customers include the staff working in the restaurant, as well as the individual suppliers they rely on to provide the ingredients. Both internal and external customers are essential to the success of your business.
First, the authors suggest that you listen to your external customers to clearly see how you’re currently impacting them—are you meeting their expectations or are there things you need to improve?
Second, Blanchard and Bowles argue that when your internal customers are happy they’re more likely to take the necessary steps to ensure that your external customers are happy. Therefore, identifying who your internal customers are and what they want is essential to the success of your business.
2. Remind Customers They’re #1
In Anything You Want, Derek Sivers says that the primary goal of your business is to help people. So while your company needs to be profitable enough to survive, your primary focus should be on understanding and addressing your customers’ needs, rather than growing your business or getting rich.
Sivers argues that it’s better to scrimp and save to build your business right than to cater to investors. Although investors can help grow your business quickly, they may demand that you change your vision or compromise your values in ways that don’t help your customers.
Here are two ways that Sivers says you can communicate to customers that they’re your top priority:
- Keep your website as free from advertisements as possible. When your customers easily find what they’re looking for on your site, the experience is positive. If they’re bombarded with distracting and targeted ads, on the other hand, it sends the message that your interests lie elsewhere.
- Publicly and loudly cater to your preferred customer base. This demonstrates to your niche clientele that you value them more than the general populace. This will attract like-minded customers and earn you a devoted fan base.
Signal That Your Customers Are Priority #1
Sivers recommends that you get loud about why your select customers matter to you. Here are five steps you can take to home in on your niche customers:
- Identify an idea you feel passionately about and a problem you’d like to solve for yourself and others.
- Assess your target market’s greatest needs using surveys and looking at sites like Quora, Reddit, and X (previously Twitter).
- Research your competition so you can distinguish yourself from them.
- Examine the potential profitability of your idea with your niche market.
- Vet your idea with family, friends, and acquaintances to assess its appeal and viability.
3. Form a Personal Connection
In his book Superfans, Pat Flynn asserts that your fans will have a positive experience with your brand if they feel a sense of personal connection. This customer-centric strategy includes feeling like the company and its staff understand them, want them to feel welcome, and even want to get to know them as people. When people feel like their relationship with a brand is more like a person-to-person relationship and less like a strictly business relationship, they will be more willing to come back to the brand for more positive experiences. This creates opportunities for positive emotional experiences that will help them ascend the levels of fandom. Flynn provides four strategies for creating a personal connection with your fans: learning their language, sharing authentically, reciprocating when people reach out, and getting to know your regulars.
Connection Creator #1: Learn Their Language
Flynn’s first connection creator is to match your language and word choice to your desired customers. Recall that Flynn advises you to solve a problem for your customers. As you research, he advises you not just to find a problem, but also to find out what language your potential customers use to talk about this problem. Using the same language as your customers demonstrates that you understand their needs—because you create a more personal connection with someone when they feel their problems are understood. As you conduct these searches, pay close attention to the specific language people use and the main themes of their discussion.
For example, let’s say your brand’s value lies in providing a service faster than your competitors. When customers complain about the time this service generally takes, how do they refer to the problem? Do they typically call it “lag-time,” “down-time,” “wait-time,” or maybe “delay?” If you notice a pattern, try to use their terms. This will not only make it easier to market your product or service, but it will signal to your customers that your brand really “gets” them, creating a positive impression.
Connection Creator #2: Share Authentically
Flynn argues that sharing your authentic self and interests online can foster a strong connection with your customers, leading them to treat their relationship with your brand as a personal relationship. This happens because when you share your interests—even those not related to your brand—your customers are more likely to find something they have in common with you—or whoever is the face of the brand. For example, sharing things about your background, like your hometown, extracurricular activities in high school, or favorite childhood movies could all provide points of connection with your customers.
Connection Creator #3: Reciprocate When People Reach Out
When customers make an effort to reach out, Flynn argues that it is very important to acknowledge them. People experience a personal connection when they feel seen and heard. If someone reaches out to your brand and their attention isn’t reciprocated, this can leave them feeling rejected and ignored, decreasing their willingness to emotionally invest in your brand. Your reciprocation could take the form of a handshake at a conference, a response to an email, or simply a “like” or comment on a social media post.
As your brand grows, you may not have time to do this for everyone, but you can also hire people to help manage the load. However, Flynn warns against having your staff members pretend to be you, if you are the face of your brand. Your fans may experience this as a betrayal of trust and turn against your brand.
Connection Creator #4: Get To Know Your Regulars
Flynn recommends you identify customers who keep coming back and learn about them to show them what they mean to the company. People feel especially seen, heard, and welcomed when someone remembers who they are. When people are already loyal to a brand, recognizing and remembering them will create the positive experience of a personal connection that may help them continue up the levels of fandom.
If you’re running a store or a restaurant, you’ll know who keeps returning. However, if your business is online, keep an eye out for customers who frequently engage with your social media or respond to surveys. Of course, you won’t be able to get to know every customer on a one-on-one basis, but you can still make the effort to remember regular customers.
4. Provide Unexpected Gifts
In Unreasonable Hospitality, hospitality guru Will Guidara details how he transformed Eleven Madison Park from a so-so brasserie in the middle of Manhattan into the World’s Best Restaurant in 2017. Guidara contends that the secret to the restaurant’s success was his commitment to providing “unreasonable hospitality”—a level of dedication to providing guests with a fantastic experience that stretched the limits of what seemed sensible. Even if you’re not in the restaurant business, you can use Guidara’s advice on gifting consumers as a customer-centric strategy.
As Guidara was looking for ways to provide unreasonable hospitality, he overheard a table of tourists who’d chosen Eleven Madison Park for their last meal in New York. The group mentioned that they’d eaten everything they’d wanted to eat—except for a classic New York hot dog. So Guidara ran out to purchase some, had Humm plate them, and served these hot dogs to the guests as one of their courses, explaining to them that he’d overheard their conversation and wanted to provide them with the best possible experience. The delight of the guests convinced Gudiara that this was something he should be doing regularly—and so Guidara systematized such gifts in two ways.
First, he created a position dedicated to providing unexpected gifts. Guidara understood that, while a meal at a restaurant is by definition consumed, the guests could relive their restaurant experience as long as they had a great story to tell. As a result, he started hiring “Dreamweavers”—people whose job it was to research the guests beforehand or listen during their meals and provide personalized touches to awe the guests and give them a great story. For example, the Dreamweavers turned the private dining room into a makeshift beach for a couple who unexpectedly couldn’t make their planned beach vacation.
Second, Guidara created standard gifts for repeatable moments. The personal nature of the Dreamweavers’ gifts sometimes meant that they were expensive, but Guidara found a more budget-minded way to systematize gifts. He looked for repeatable moments—the memorable things that happened regularly at the restaurant—and created standard gifts for those moments. For example, many couples got engaged at EMP. So Guidara partnered with Tiffany to create custom champagne flutes; he’d pour them a champagne toast in the flutes at EMP and gift them the flutes in Tiffany boxes.
5. Take Advantage of Customer Feedback
Lastly, you’ll want to ask customers for feedback on either your product or your sales strategy. Get insight into what makes the customer excited or unimpressed about your business. Here are a few of Rob Fitzpatrick’s (The Mom Test) advanced tips on how to use this customer-centric strategy to enhance your business.
- Involve all core team members in discussions with customers. Fitzpatrick states that all of your business’s core team members should be present for some discussions with customers. If the founder of a startup is the only one to ever talk with customers, they may unintentionally neglect to share important information with the rest of the team.
- Take notes during discussions with customers. Fitzpatrick asserts that another important aspect of conducting the conversation is taking notes. By recording and organizing the information you learn, you’ll have an easier time accurately recalling past conversations and keeping your other team members informed. Fitzpatrick advises having a designated note-taker at most meetings so you don’t have to take notes and run the meeting at the same time. In addition, write down direct quotations when possible. Not only do quotes help you be objective when referring back to your notes, but they can also later be used for marketing and fundraising.
- Actively learn from discussions with customers. Fitzpatrick explains that to get the most out of your discussions with customers, you must dedicate time to reviewing what you’ve learned. Review your notes with the rest of your team as soon as possible to make sure everyone is cooperating smoothly. Based on this information, consider how you could improve your business strategy, as well as what you could do better in the next customer conversation. Finally, in preparation for your next conversation, decide on your next three learning objectives.
- Never stop seeking feedback. Fitzpatrick advises that you continue to seek feedback from customers as needed throughout the lifespan of your company. Once your product is a proven success, you won’t have to spend as much time talking to customers as when you’re first starting out, but it’s helpful to maintain an ongoing stream of feedback as your business continues to grow.
Customers can be tricky to understand if you don’t communicate with them. It’s not enough to tell them that they should buy your product—you need to demonstrate how your business will change their life for the better. With these customer-centric strategies, you’ll create a loyal following for your business.
What are other customer-centric strategies that businesses should take advantage of? Let us know in the comments below!
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