Having clear customer strategies can accelerate the pace in developing new relationships and securing new business. It can provide a greater understanding of current and potential customers, and what is required to secure future business. It helps to identify whether they are an ‘ideal’ customer to work with; do they have, or the ability to have, a need for our products and services, people willing to engage who share similar values, and have the financial means and available budgets. Are they based in an acceptable geographical location, and can they open doors to new markets and industries and other customers.
Taking a disciplined approach to creating customer strategies can potentially maximise the value of our time spent in securing new business. It can create efficiencies where everyone understands their role and their contribution in securing and servicing the customer and it does not stop us from being opportunistic, when new customers continue to approach us directly. Creating good customer strategies is not just about new customers, it also focuses on retaining current customers, ensuring we continue to focus on their current and future needs, whilst increasing the chances of them providing referrals and recommendations.
A good customer strategy considers the whole customer lifecycle – the steps we will go through from researching, approaching and engaging the customer, through to securing new business and delivering the solution / products. Understanding the customer needs, can force us to look at our own offering and our routes to market. It helps us to question and refine our operating model, including the skills, capabilities, ways of working and behaviours to successfully meet our customers’ needs. It can facilitate a fresh approach and innovation in our own business.
In creating a successful strategy and approach for a customer, it is vital to understand their big picture, our relationship with the customer, as well as the links, connections, levers and drivers within business and the market in which they operate. This will involve a good level of understanding at both a global and local level. Questions need to be asked including:
- Who is the customer – what is their vision, mission, goals and overall business agenda?
- What is their current strategy to deliver their vision and what are their key strategic priorities?
- How is their financial performance (past, present and future predictions) and their positioning in the market place?
- Do we understand the market in which they operate? Are there any subtleties that we need to understand?
- What are the core strengths and limitations of their brand and is this a brand that we wish to associate with?
- What differentiates them in the market place?
- Who are the key people in the organisation? Who are our key stakeholders? Who are the decision-makers? How is the business is structured and governed at a global and local level?
- How far up the value chain can we go?
- How do we approach them? Do we know anyone already in the organisation? Can we be introduced to them?
- Are there key systems and processes that have a fundamental impact on how the business operates?
- How can we demonstrate our ability to add value to their business?
- What is the customer experience that we wish to create?
- Do we have the people, skills, capabilities, ways of working and behaviours to deliver the customer offering and exceed their expectations?
- Do we need to refine our business / operating model?
In co-creating a customer strategy, the outputs include:
- Determining our key goals for / with this customer (financial and non-financial)
- Creating a key stakeholder map
- Defining the offering (products and services) for the customer
- Agreeing the connections we need to make and the conversation we need to have to approach and engage the customer and potentially move up the value chain to achieve our goals and objectives
- Identifying the skills we can use immediately and those skills and competencies we will need to develop
- Identifying the additional resource / skills we will need to source
- Creating an action plan and identifying any quick wins
- Agreeing clear accountabilities in our team to bring the strategy to life and move forward