Why Solving Customer Problems is more important than Business Vision

|by Amy Birch

To be successful, companies need to acknowledge the importance of their customers. Customers are the kingmakers in business. Meeting customer needs is a challenge that every business needs to succeed in.

To do this effectively is challenging and requires companies to understand what customers want. However, all too often, companies get caught up in their own vision and lose sight of what really matters. There are some very real dangers for companies who focus too much on their own ideal company vision.

In this post, we discuss how companies can gain an understanding of customer pain points, interpreting data, and why following a business vision too strictly can be a bad thing.

Defining customer pain points

The first problem for companies looking to become more customer-centric is trying to understand their customer’s problems. Pain points are top-level issues that customers are aware of and are negatively affected by.

The pain points that you identify can differ depending on whether your customer already has a competitor’s product or not. Targeting a customer who hasn’t previously bought into a solution is much easier as you don’t need to address the costs and efforts of transferring them from one solution to another.

Once any common pain points have been identified and documented, you should consider how your products can address and resolve these issues. Building your products around customer needs increases your products' relevance.

Identify the key pain points associated to your company - this will help you create a solution that directly addresses your customer’s problems.

Addressing customer pain points

You can create buyer personas to develop an understanding of how your customers think and act. Getting into the mindset of an individual customer isn’t always easy but it is effective. The personas that you create should be as detailed as possible, outlining the problems, worries, and considerations your customers have.

What is it that keeps your customers awake at night? These concerns should be prioritised when creating your solution.

McKinsey reported on how one American airport used its passenger feedback to develop a more enjoyable passenger experience. Airports are busy, fast-paced, and changeable environments, and there are many pain points that need to be addressed.

Although the airport in the study was able to identify key passenger pain points, they did not realise the value which passengers placed on each. Making changes according to what the airport believed would work ran the risk of missing the point.

Taking the time to ask passengers how they felt led to a clear understanding and resulted in a better experience. This approach proved so popular that it has since been replicated in some UK airports.

On the other hand, many failed businesses skip this step, and instead choose to focus on addressing the problems they think their customers care about. When using this approach, marketers only have half of the story. Marketers might change their marketing messages to sound like they're addressing the customer, but if the customer doesn’t care, that's pretty pointless.  

Using data to solve customer problems

To really understand what problems customers face, you need to collect data. Data gives a hard and reliable reference point for the way that your customers think and act. There are many different types and sources of data that can be used for this purpose, each telling a different story about an individual.

Collecting data first hand is the most reliable way to make sure your input is both accurate and relevant. This type of data is called primary data. It's generally up-to-date and accurate.

Secondary data collection methods rely on data that has been collected by an external body. Although cheaper, secondary data might not be as accurate, up-to-date, or relevant for the purpose.

Behavioural data is primary data resulting from customer actions. This type of data allows you to understand how your customers interact with your product. Building up a picture from all of your customer behavioural data can give you a rich data-set.

This type of marketing puts the customer at the centre of the marketing approach. As a result, each marketing message can be tailored to each customer on a one-to-one level.

Know your metrics - decide which metrics are important to your business and focus on these when marketing to your contacts. To learn more, check out 'How to choose the right marketing KPIs for your business.'

How disruptive marketers address customer pain points

Disruptive marketing can address common customer pain points.  The main aim of market disruptors is to challenge the status quo and create a new environment for their product.

Marketers taking disruptive approaches focus on answering the main questions and problems that are currently unanswered. By doing this, companies are able to create a niche for their own product to succeed.

Each time a product is developed with a disruptive intent, the product needs to meet the needs of an unsatisfied existing market or to cater to a new, emerging market.

To be successful with this type of approach, you need to speak to your audience on their level. Using the right kind of language to convey your marketing message is almost as important as the message itself.

The key to solving customer problems is understanding how a customer may feel or speak about their own business and targeting marketing messages accordingly.

Disrupting the market not only relies on creating the right product. Marketers need to convey the benefit of doing something different. As conventional solutions to a problem are likely to be in existence, the new disruptive solution needs to stand out as doing something different.

Check your copy. Make sure you're speaking to customers on their terms, in the tone they use, and using language choices they make.

Map out the current customer journey and hone in on the problems that your customers struggle with. This will help you refine your product to create something that customers will really value.

Focusing solely on the business vision is a bad idea

If you ignore your customers and plough on according to your own ideas, you run the risk of failing. Ignoring customer data means that you'd be relying on luck alone to succeed. Worse still, if you act without considering your customers, you could make your customers' situations even worse.

Companies who operate in this way often act according to what they would like for themselves rather than thinking more widely about their customer base.

Focusing too intently on a strict business vision means that companies are likely to miss out on new emerging opportunities. Whilst it might be time and resource consuming to change approach, this is key if you want your product to remain relevant and popular. Failing to adapt to a changing business environment will lead to your company slipping behind your competitors.

Even though your product might meet the needs of a customer when it's first developed, it might need to be updated or evolve to remain competitive in the marketplace. 

Customers have more choice than ever before and the internet makes it easy to find alternatives. If your business fails to deliver what the customer wants, they'll simply move elsewhere. This results in a loss of income and reputation for your company.

Regularly look at your vision to make sure that you stay relevant in your industry. Be prepared to change direction or adapt your offering to cater to changing customer needs.

But having a vision is still important

Although being customer-centric is more important than your business goals, having a vision is still important. Your company vision should be closely tied to the problems that your customers face. Knowing what direction your company is moving in gives you a purpose and a sense of identity.

An article by AchieveIt explored the need for employees to know their company’s mission statements. According to the article, as many as 70% of company employees surveyed didn't know their own company’s mission statement.

However, creating the mission statement and leaving it to collect dust on the shelf is just as bad. Your mission statement and your company's vision should be continually updated to reflect changes in the market and customer feedback.

Having a vision gives your company a blueprint for success. The act of creating and adhering to a vision and mission statement gives your company an identity. This can then be used to stand out in the marketplace.

Creating a USP

Every company needs a USP (unique selling point) to market their product or service successfully. This is the reason why a customer or customer might choose your company above your competitors. Your USP should be the main benefit the customer can expect.

A generic benefit such as ‘We offer a better service than others’ isn't likely to be enough to convince customers. Every company aspires to offer a ‘better’ product or service, but what does that really mean? To create an effective USP, you need to show a specific and tangible benefit of using your product.

Create a USP that gives value to the customer. Your USP should elevate your product above the competition and successfully influence the buyer’s decision.

The demise of Kodak

Kodak failed to move quickly enough to respond to the changing photography marketplace, leading to its eventual bankruptcy in 2012.  

Six years later, it emerged as a company with a different focus - digital photography products. However, the company struggled to adapt for some time.

For many years, Kodak had been the market-leading photography firm with a leading market share across both the US and the rest of the world. The company was a market leader in film-based photography until shortly before 2012.

However, the rise of digital, filmless cameras challenged the business to change the way it operated. As this article from Forbes explains, Kodak didn't respond quickly or fluidly enough to the new digital photography movement, resulting in a shrinking market share and profit margins.

Now, the film photography market comprises a niche part of the larger photography market. Whilst Kodak caters for these customers, it now also diverges to deal with digital photography products. The company is now on the rise again. However, with a more flexible approach, it might have avoided the 2012 bankruptcy entirely.

The rise of ALDI

As an example of a success story, let's talk about ALDI. 

ALDI took advantage of a gap in the supermarket industry. The brand prides itself on stocking cheap, fresh products at a low price. By exploiting this gap in the market, ALDI was able to win the Which? best supermarket title four times in a row until 2015.

The supermarket continues to respond to customer demand by producing competitively priced goods and improving customer service with faster customer response times.

Aldi has stayed at the forefront of the supermarket industry by adapting according to market needs.

Summary

Each time you create a new product, you need to consider how it addresses customer pain points. 

By directly addressing customers' needs in the product design and creation stage, you can predict how customers will react. However, over time, these needs and requirements are likely to change.

To continually meet and exceed customer expectations, you need to stay one step ahead of your customers.

Whilst having goals and ambitions is important to create a successful business, the ability to adapt to and address customer pain points is essential. Companies which adapt to a changing marketplace are more successful in the long term than those which stick strictly to their original message.

Next time you create a marketing campaign, remember to:

  • Directly address the customer and their main problems
  • Show how your company has a unique offering
  • Stay up to date with any changes in your marketplace.  Adapt your message accordingly.

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