The Most Important Question to Ask a Customer
We’re often asked to put together marketing plans. It’s not a difficult task. Goals and objectives, strategies and tactics. Calculate the desired specific, measurable results and apply a budget, link it all to a time line and ensure sales and operational support to back it. That’s in extremely broad strokes and there is considerable detail behind each activity. But there’s always one question we always ask and most companies can’t answer it: Why do your best customers buy from your company?
If you don’t know that, the marketing plan may work. But it may not and you might not even know why.
This applies to even the most technologically complex products, in our experience. What can you learn from this exercise? Here are three examples from successful companies we’ve worked with on marketing in the past:
- A company thought their strength was in innovation. Customers said that they would rate that company about mid-range on innovation but incredibly high on customer service.
- Confident that they didn’t need outside salespeople, a company decided to bring all sales in-house. Before they did, they asked us to talk to customers and we found out that the main differentiator between them and their competition was…you guessed it…their outside salespeople.
- Convinced that it was their product’s price that kept customers loyal, we did some research with customers and found out that, while the low price was appreciated, it was the high quality that consistently kept customers devoted to their brand.
Talk to your customers. Ask them why they like working with your company. Ask them what they would do if your company went away (always a revealing question!) Be sure to be open-ended and let them talk, don’t give them a multiple choice list. If you can, find an outside company to do the questioning. People will be more candid if they know their answers are anonymous and that’s not always about negative impressions, they’ll share more positive opinions, too, to an outside, objective questioner.
You’ll form a more accurate picture of your company. More importantly, you will understand your customers in much more depth.