Customer First

“I think we’re having fun. I think our customers really like our products. And we’re always trying to do better”. Steve Jobs.

“We provide food that customers love, day after day after day. People just want more of it”. Ray Kroc.

How many companies can make a boast like Steve Jobs and Ray Kroc made above? It would be an absolute luxury to be in a situation where you do not have to worry about your customers.

For a startup it is critical getting your first ten or thousand or million customers. As Michael LeBoeuf said, “Every company’s greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company”. You will find a wealth of material on the Internet to guide you on strategies that you can use to attract customers to your business. Beginning from advertising, networking, inviting referrals to getting into ‘host-beneficiary’ arrangements and strategic arrangements, there are a host of approaches that you can adopt. Many of these will help you achieve your desired or magic number of customers.

That is all very well, but first, do you know who your customer is? According to Craig Sherman “First, you must have entrepreneurs who fully grasp their customers. They understand their product so well because they themselves are customers. The second thing is having an awesome value proposition”. Very rightly said, you can reach your target only if you do your homework well. First, is to get to know your product or service and the value that it is creating for your customer. This will help you to come up with the ultimate pitch to attract your customer. Next, identify your target customers, those who actually need your product or service. This will help you tune your advertisements etc. towards this group. In addition, these are the customers who will realize benefits from your product/service and will recommend it to others, through review comments, referrals etc. Finally, look at your sales channels and work at maximizing the number of channels to increase your reach. Every new sales channel will give you exposure to a whole new group of customers. These are my top-of-mind items, a must do sort of list. You may want to add more background activities that will take you there and beyond.

Once you achieve your targeted ‘million’ customers, you have reached a milestone. The journey does not end there for you. What is your next step? For one, you need to find ways to retain these customers and turn them into repeat customers. You need to convert them into ‘loyal’ customers who come back to you again and again. This may lead you to improving your product so as to exceed their expectations. Note what Roy H. Williams said: “The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations”. Here are some of the actions you can adopt towards customer retention. Capture your customer’s details and purchase preferences. Using their preferred mode, talk to them. Re-work your sales strategy to bring in focus on customer retention. Provide options for up-sale and cross-sale so that customer purchases can be complimented with add-ons that will add value to the original purchase. Ensure a great purchasing experience for the customer and offer top-class aftercare service. To share an example, I found one thing to be very convenient is paytm’s feature of capturing the payment card details of customers. In subsequent purchases, I only needed to enter the CVV code to initiate the payment. This feature saved me the trouble of having to enter my card number, expiry date and name etc. for every purchase.

“If your customer base is aging with you, then eventually you are going to become obsolete or irrelevant. You need to be constantly figuring out who are your new customers and what are you doing to stay forever young”. Jeff Bezos.

It will be a tragedy if you get bogged down with keeping your first million customers satisfied. After getting your first set of customers, you must go all out and get more customers. You will naturally continue with the strategies that you started off with, at least those that worked well. You now have an existing set of customers that you can leverage to expand your customer base. Take feedback from customers to improve your product and related services. Get recommendations and referrals from customers. Offer rewards and incentives. Remain in touch. You cannot rest on your laurels with regard to customers. Even if you exceed your target tenfold, you will need to continue with your customer retention and customer acquisition strategies. These are constant and repeat activities that you will accomplish throughout the life span of your business.

Make a set of ‘cardinal rules’ that, come what may, you will not deviate from. Here are some that you can start off with:

Do’s
• All customers must be treated as individuals and not as numbers or labels.
• Capture details of your existing customers and use their profiles to attract new customers.
• People should find it easy to buy from you again and again.
Don’ts:
• Ignore customer feedback at any cost. Especially, negative feedback must be responded to speedily.
• Think customers will automatically come back to buy from you anyway. Do you, by default, go back to the same store every time? Sometimes you try out different stores and depending on your experience you may not return to the earlier store.
• Concentrate on existing customers only. You can lose customers on a regular basis. If you do not put in effort to get new customers, you will ultimately end up with no customers.

Before I leave, let me share what Naveen Jain, entrepreneur and philanthropist, said:

“Go where your customers take you! For example, did you know that Sony’s first product was a rice cooker? Since abandoning the rice cooker, it has merely managed to become the world’s biggest consumer electronics company”

REFERENCES:

• Brad Sugars. Four Simple Ways to Find Customers. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/219582
• Nine top tips for finding new customers. http://www.marketingdonut.co.uk/marketing/sales/sales-lead-generation/nine-top-tips-for-finding-new-customers
• Action List: How to turn new customers into reliable revenue streams. http://www.marketingdonut.co.uk/marketing/customer-care/action-list-how-to-turn-new-customers-into-reliable-revenue-streams
• Megan Tough. 8 Ways to Get More from Your Existing Customers. http://www.businessknowhow.com/marketing/existingcustomers.htm
• Brad Sugars. Four Simple Ways to Find Customers. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/219582



Comment Form