Dave Fazekas: As the calendar changes, take the time to really understand your customer Featured

8:52am EDT December 20, 2013
Dave Fazekas, columnist Dave Fazekas, columnist

 

As you set your New Year’s business objectives and goals, the bulk of your attention is probably focused on driving revenue growth, budgeting, cost control and other operational matters. But these are all part of a greater business purpose: To serve your customer.

What better time than at the beginning of a new year to analyze who your customer and target audience really are? If you don’t know, then no matter how extensive your sales and marketing efforts are, they may ultimately prove fruitless.

Are you aware of your traditional customer’s current needs, attitudes and behaviors? Do you know if they’ve changed those behaviors? And if so, how and why?

With our own customers, for example, we hear a lot about aging supply chains, changing workforces and evolving customer bases. People that your team members have been working with for years are retiring. Your client — and your client’s client — has transformed.

Observe the landscape

There is a younger generation of buyers who look at things differently. Those leaving the workforce may not have relied as heavily on the Web. They may not have invested time, energy and resources thinking about search capabilities and their digital presence. But this new group does.

What is it that the new buyer wants? And is the person who used to knock on your door to see you now going to research you online before they’re willing to sit down and talk? Buyer behavior has changed, and you better know your changing customer because they know you.

According to a report from Forrester Research, “Buyers are often more than two-thirds of the way through their problem-solving cycle before they engage with a supplier’s sales department. By the time they interact with salespeople, they demand more detailed information and expertise, which requires marketing and sales to deliver a well-orchestrated buyer experience.”

This means by the time you actually make contact with that potential customer, he or she is already familiar with your organization. Your team better have the same message internally as the one you’re putting out there online. You never know where or how you’re going to be found.

Start this process by conducting an internal analysis of your customers. Learn how the new customers with whom you’ve worked over the past year found you and whether this is different than in the past. Look at your long-standing customers and identify where they met you. Was it at a trade show, through a referral or in the Yellow Pages? It’s likely that your more recent clients found you through completely different means. 

Examine what you’ve found

Next, analyze the results. These will help you see whether you are marketing to where your new clients will find you.

Keep in mind that before you can effectively develop any marketing strategy and implement the tactics, you need to know how your target audience will consume your content and where. Don’t waste money attracting the wrong audience.

As they say in search, it’s not how much traffic you get; it’s whether you’re getting the right traffic. If converting your audience is the goal, then when you’re not reaching the right audience your message gets lost.

One way to ensure the right message for the right audience is by holding a customer roundtable. This not only provides the benefit of networking, it gives you the opportunity to directly ask your clients, “Why did you choose us? How did you find us? And what was the value proposition that ultimately was the decision-maker?”

You may think you know the answers, but getting a group of people together in an open forum could lead you to understanding behaviors and reasons you hadn’t previously recognized.

All of this may sound complicated, but it is really pretty simple stuff: The more you know your customer, and the more you know the best way to communicate with them, the more effective your relationship is going to be.

Dave Fazekas is vice president of digital marketing for Smart Business. Reach him at  dfazekas@sbninteractive.com or (440) 250-7056.