Business success depends on many factors, one of the most important of which is having happy, loyal customers.
If increasing satisfaction in your client base is one of your top priorities right now, you should be giving some close thought to how well you understand your buyers (previous and prospective). The deeper and more accurate your understanding, the better placed you are to not only respond to customer needs, but be proactive in anticipating them.
So what can you do to gain a clearer idea of what really matters to your clients and what they're hoping to gain by buying from you?
1. Study their business
If you provide products or services to other businesses, it's crucial to take the time to study their organization, focusing on the goals they're trying to achieve and problems they have that you can help to solve. This knowledge will prove invaluable when your account management team are working hard to keep existing clients happy, or members of the sales department are thinking about how they can impress a new contact in a forthcoming meeting.
There are various approaches you can take to familiarize yourself with your customers and their various objectives and pain points, starting with some basic online research. This should seek to answer questions such as:
- How long have they been in business?
- What are their key products and services?
- What needs do they have that could cause them to buy from you?
- Who are their key decision makers?
- What other businesses are they in competition with?
It's also worth thinking about how you can go further to deepen and refine your customer understanding. For past buyers, this might involve asking for their opinions via surveys.
2. Ask detailed survey questions
Conducting customer surveys and asking respondents for their feedback on your brand or service is a good way to learn more about how you're performing, but it can also give you insights into what really matters to your clients.
One useful approach is to ask conversational, open-ended questions, such as: "How could we improve our service?" This is likely to yield responses that help you learn more about what your customers want from you and their key criteria for success.
It's also important to remove bias from the process and ask questions that encourage customers to give honest, unfiltered answers. Negative feedback might be difficult to take at first, but it could provide lessons that help you deliver a stronger service.
3. Use empathy
There's a certain amount you can learn from basic demographic criteria, or for B2B businesses, firmographic data such as:
- Geographic area
- Company size
- Technologies used
- Target audience
But to really get to grips with what defines your customers and makes them tick, you need to go further than this basic information. There's a lot to be gained from empathizing with your clients and prioritizing what they have to gain from the relationship, rather than how your business stands to benefit.
Consider questions like:
- What has brought the customer to this point in their journey?
- What are their goals and ambitions for the future?
- What concerns and challenges keep them up at night?
Taking the time to consider questions like these could lead to insights that deepen your customer understanding and put you in a stronger position to meet their needs.
4. Have meaningful conversations
Every one-to-one interaction you have with a customer is an opportunity for a productive conversation that sheds light on their needs and goals.
A key part of having meaningful discussions, particularly from a client understanding perspective, is listening. Investing in dedicated training for your sales, marketing, customer service and account management teams will help to ensure they're really taking on board what clients are telling them and responding to this information.
You can show that you're engaging with what customers are telling you by reiterating what you've heard and asking relevant, insightful questions that move the conversation forward.
5. Practice key account management
Key account management (KAM) is a method that can yield positive results if you want to dedicate a lot of time and attention to particular customers that hold a lot of value for the business.
After identifying particular clients you think would benefit from KAM, you can put specific processes in place that will help you develop strong relationships with them built on empathy and understanding. This might involve having regular meetings and making time to learn more about their business, even if there is no direct link to sales or revenue opportunities.
If you're using KAM for the first time, it could be wise to start small and focus on just one or two of your most important accounts. The results you gain from this initial rollout of the strategy will provide some guidance on how effective it could prove to be for other customers. Eventually, it could become a revolutionary approach for your business.