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.
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.