“I think the artistry is in having an insight into what one sees around them. Generally putting things together in a way no one else has before and finding a way to express that to other people who don’t have that insight.”—Steve Jobs
Have you ever wondered how your competition continually understands the market better than you? Does it seem at times they’re always one step ahead in developing new products, attracting more prospects and acquiring customers? What makes their business trajectory faster or perceived to be a greater success? Simple…they know how to harness Customer Insights to their advantage.
You’d be surprised how many companies and startups claim they talk with customers. Talking is only one half the equation…applying those learnings to drive your business forward is the most important link to achieving customer success. I’ve observed many team members, executives and different department heads all come up with excuses as to why customers shouldn’t tell them how to run their business. Their lack of understanding, willingness to listen and ability to distill customer feedback or input is surprising.
The richness of insights can be a catalyst for expanding an existing product line, solidifying a partnership or making a sale. That “spark” can lead to so many possibilities. Whether those insights shift your strategic focus, help create operational efficiencies or give your engineers a path to innovative designs—the opportunities are endless!
Let’s break down six core categories that formulate the backbone of Customer Insights:
- Challenge the norm
- Immerse yourself in the competition
- Track trends, market disruptors and customer shifts
- Look outside your industry and/or segment
- Test assumptions quickly
- Listen, Learn, Leverage
While all of these individual areas can stand on their own, the real magic happens when they are coordinated together. Here are some successful companies that continue to rely on Customer Insights to leverage their customer loyalty and competitive differentiation:
- Challenge the norm—Apple; FedEx; Uber; Netflix
- Immerse yourself in the competition—Tesla; McDonald’s; Coca-Cola; IKEA
- Track trends, market disruptors and customer shifts—eBay; PayPal; SoFi; Starbucks
- Look outside your industry and/or segment—Amazon; Cisco; Adobe; Red Bull
- Test assumptions quickly (Test and Roll)—Google; COSTCO; Rent the Runway; Facebook
- Listen, Learn, Leverage (Connect the Dots); (Rinse & Repeat)—NIKE; Disney; Trader Joe’s; HP
To make that more concrete, below are a few examples of initial benefits you may experience when incorporating Customer Insights into your business journey:
- Formulate new sales enablement approaches and tools
- Shift/expand strategy to encompass new customer opportunities
- Refocus existing customer challenges to drive new vertical markets, channels and geos
- Enhance messaging to increase competitive advantage and leverage product superiority
- Revitalize product positioning/synergies
- Development of new product(s) and solution offerings
- Restructure of partnerships/alliances to improve deal flow and revenue growth
- Generate an ongoing brand and product audit that continually results in customer feedback and insights
As with any company or startup, the level of Customer Insights varies depending upon where your evolution of products and/or services are and how you engage with prospects/customers in the marketplace. An acronym that my teams have focused on when gathering market intelligence is L.I.V.E.:
- Listen—learn, apply, share
- Innovate—develop, challenge, change
- Validate—with customers and in market
- Execute—growth, assessment, leverage
Taking a L.I.V.E. approach, you’ll naturally engage with your customers—find unique trending ideas, explore novel product challenges and discover untapped resources that can contribute to your bottom line.
Overall, remember Customer Insights are that valuable asset which you and your team can unlock for better intelligence, greater visibility and continuous improvements toward business success.