Is Your SMB’s Marketing Strategy Product Centric or Customer Centric and Why Should You Care?

Small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) can deliver customer value by being product centric, i.e. providing product leadership, or by being customer centric or customer intimate. In the former instance, the SMB tries to continually improve the products and services they provide to their customers. In the latter instance the SMB strives to understand their “favorite” customer, anticipate future customer requirements, and to respond to those needs.

Product Centric Strategy

To pursue a strategy of product leadership or product centricity involves delivering customer value through leading edge products and services.  This entails a continuous stream of new products and services, and creatively adapting to new and changing market conditions while constantly pursuing new solutions on behalf of clients and customers.

To do this effectively, the business needs to be very research and development centered and extremely knowledgeable about the products and services currently being developed and considered in the market place. Sales & Marketing needs to be closely tied to customers in order to teach them new approaches and solutions to their problems. This also requires the ability to direct customers into avenues they hadn’t entertained on their own about the use of new products and services.

Larger companies can execute this strategy more effectively than SMBs, because they have the resources to devote to research and development and also have larger sales, marketing and support organizations that are able to stay in touch with their customers.  The company’s personnel often act as advisors and consultants to their customers assuming the role of fitting their product to the customer’s needs.

Customer Centric Strategy

Customer intimacy or customer centricity entails precisely segmenting and targeting markets, acquiring detailed customer knowledge, developing an operational flexibility that allows for immediate response to customer needs, and securing customer loyalty. The value added component of this strategy is to attain intimate knowledge of the customer’s requirements or pain points and outlining a specific solution to address those requirements.

This strategy demands a very active marketing, sales and customer service department geared to relationship selling.  In fact, these departments drive the SMB’s business and are the company’s primary interface to prospects and the customer base.  As such, they need to continually solicit customer information, sort it, analyze it, and use to define a consistent message for all who interact with the customer.

One of the ways to capture, manage and share this vital customer information is through the use of Customer Relationship Management software (CRM).  Large organizations have been using CRM solutions for some time to automate and streamline the interaction between the company and the customer. The utilization however is mostly to gather contact management information about the customer and to use that information to drive and fine-tune the sales cycle.  The objective is to find creative ways to sell additional products and services to the customer by convincing the customer that there is a fit between their requirements and the products or service the sales representatives is selling.

While this is fine, in order to execute a customer centric strategy you need a CRM solution that is designed for customer collaboration. The CRM software must solicit not only geographic customer data, but also demographic data to help build a detailed picture of the “favorite” customer makeup.  In addition, the sales, customer service and any other personnel with customer contact need to be trained to solicit and collect psychographic and behavioral data that help define how and why the customer buys.

Social Networking

The rapid expansion and utilization of social networking can provide essential customer centric information for sales and marketing organizations.  Sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are being used by today’s businesses to communicate and interact with similar organizations. These conversations provide valuable insight into customer buying patterns, likes and dislikes and behavioral data. Best of all, you don’t have to be an enterprise company to access social media sites, capture and analyze information and produce a marketing message that fits the customer’s pain points and buying habits. What is important is that the SMB selects the right CRM platform which will enable them to directly link to these sites, capture the information and utilize it to gain a competitive edge.

Commence Corporation, a leading provider of cloud computing based CRM software, is taking a leadership position in this area and understands that the future of customer relationship management will be driven based on the collaboration and partnership with customers.  Commence is busy restructuring the data points that their system collects to include the needed demographic and psychographics data that CRM systems do not capture today.  Commence is also working to seamlessly interface the product with social media applications so that it can collect and analyze all of the different streams of customer conversations that are currently on the web, then use this information for targeting effective marketing campaigns.

Having the right business strategy in today’s challenging economy is critical for success.  A sound customer centric strategy gives you the ability to craft a company wide marketing message that is used by all to communicate your value not only to your current customer base, but also to those prospects that your sales team can readily qualify and close. To do this effectively, you need to select a CRM software provider that offers a platform that can support the customer collaboration that will need into take place in the future.

About the author: Larry Caretsky is the president of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software which can be deployed in a web-based, cloud-computing environment or on premise. Caretsky is considered an expert in Customer Relationship Management and has written numerous white papers on the subject, which may be accessed via the company’s web site at www.commence.com.

Redefining Customer Relationship In CRM

As small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) struggle to survive in this economic climate, they are placing a major emphasis on increasing sales. Whether through finding new customers or attempting to increase the volume of purchases by the existing customer base, the attention is on getting the sales organization to be more productive.  SMBs, in spite of tough economic times, are investing in technology to enhance the productivity of the sales force and for the most part are implementing Customer Relationship Management tools to make this happen. While this is decidedly a step in the right direction, there may be additional ways to increase sales productivity.  This article examines a more effective way of utilizing CRM software to increase customer acquisition and revenue growth.

The Role of Technology

The last several years have brought a radical change in the relationship between the customer and business as a whole.  More and more customers are collaborating with businesses and technology is playing a key role in this new collaboration. An increasing percentage of interaction with customers is coming by way of social networks and online communities.  These interactions include suggestions for product improvement, requests for help, information requests and even customers assisting their counterparts directly.  These customer conversations are driving the need for the business to respond in a timely fashion and to also convince potential customers of their ability to adequately address their needs.

This is driving executives to focus more attention on discovering the “favorite” customer or target market and crafting a marketing message that resonates with that target market.  To do this effectively, the business needs to gather and analyze all of the relevant customer data points,  In addition to demographic and geographic data, the business needs to understand why customers are buying their products or services and more importantly, what specific language the “favorite” customer is using to describe the buying experience.

The Changing Customer Role

This calls for the establishment of a close collaborative effort between the business and the customer base.  Sales and any other part of the organization that is in direct contact with the customer needs to listen closely to the conversation in order to hear what the customer is saying.  The data gathered needs to be analyzed so that not only does the business then understand which customers comprise the target market, but also how those customers think and how they communicate.

This effectively achieves two goals.  First, it allows the sales force to be immensely more productive by getting them to concentrate on that part of the general marketplace that has these pre-qualified prospects that have the same profile as the “favorite” customer. Secondly, it gives the marketing side of the business the ability to script a marketing message that resonates with the customer since it uses the information gleaned from the customer and can be written in a language that the customer understands.

Even more importantly, with more customers using online communities and social networks, it is essential that the key phrases that the business uses are the same as the key phrases that the customer uses in their posts on Facebook and LinkedIn or in their tweets on Twitter.  It also allows the business to search engine optimize its web site because the language and the keywords used are the ones the favorite customers are accustomed to.

So now, the business has a marketing message that resonates with the customer.  The sales force has a sales pitch that is geared towards solving the customer pain and is in a language the customer understands.  The customer feels that the business is listening and hearing them and prospects not only find the business, but when engaged by the sales force are easier to bring to a close.

Can current CRM systems play in this arena?

Most current CRM systems are very effective at helping the sales force automate the sales process and manage the sales cycle.  The way they do this is by collecting customer and prospect data that the sales force uses to manage sales campaigns, schedule sales calls and keep the sales cycle moving along.  To meet the new paradigm of target marketing that requires collaboration with our customers, these CRM systems need new functionality.

Commence Corporation is taking a leadership position in this area and understands that the future of customer relationship management will be centered on the collaboration and partnership with customers.  Commence is busy restructuring the data points that their system collects to include the needed demographic and psychographics data that CRM system do not capture today.  Commence is also looking closely at interfacing the product with social media applications so that it can collect and analyze all of the different streams of customer conversations that are currently on the web, then use this information to targeting effective marketing campaigns.

As a result of the economic downturn, many SMBs are struggling to justify the capital outlay to upgrade or implement a new CRM system because of cost and business uncertainty.  To survive in today’s economy, you need to implement a CRM software solution, but you need to do it for the right reasons.  Don’t implement a CRM solution to simply automate the sales process.  Growing your business will require the ability to capture, manage and share vital customer information from several data sources and then use the information to gain a competitive edge.  Select a CRM software provider that offers a platform that can support the customer collaboration that will need to take place in the future.

 

About the author: Larry Caretsky is the president of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software, which can be deployed in a web-based, cloud-computing environment or on premise. Caretsky is considered an expert in Customer Relationship Management and has written numerous white papers on the subject, which may be accessed via the company’s web site at www.commence.com.