Maintaining Focus in Turbulent Times
Customers and Strategy Hold the Key
By Atul Minocha
The more things change, the more they stay the same; it is an axiom that is true–and even comforting–during dark times and good.
In fact, even at a time when the world is completely consumed, and seemingly transformed, by the Coronavirus, many of us can take stock in this generationally-tested truism.
When the clouds part (which they will), and we are buoyed by the silver lining of commerce, the two most vital elements of growth will, once again, separate the contenders from the pretenders:
Always focus on the customer, and;
Hone your strategy—in a reasoned way—rather than simply execute on ill-conceived, reactionary tactics.
The persistent relevance of these tenets of marketing were recently affirmed in a landmark 2020 market outlook survey conducted by Chief Outsiders of its more than 70 fractional chief marketing officers (CMOs) with Fortune 500 experience.
So, in these uncertain times, when we all have an inordinate amount of time to focus on the future, how can you get a head start toward embracing these growth essentials? Here’s some advice to help you get started:
Focus on Customer:
Often companies don’t take the time to understand who their customer is. It’s a narrow perspective that forsakes some very important intangibles. When working with a B2B or B2C buyer, dealing with intermediaries who facilitate the value and distribution chain is likely; and the end user, whose consumption of the product or service is ultimately what pays the bills.
That intermediary, though critical to cracking open the window, is your partner – and though elemental to the business, they are not your customers. Instead, you want to focus on the end user – the person or group that ultimately pays the bills. Once this customer is identified, examine a set of essentials to ensure ongoing relevance to them, including:
Is everything being done to maximize the value delivered to the customer, both through the product, and the ongoing service?
Does your company ensure that each step of the delivery chain adds clear value to the customer? If you find that any link is not holding up the rest of the chain, it’s likely to come back to bite you – potentially in the form of your competition, who will capitalize on this weakness.
How is the relationship with channel partners? Remember, they hold the key to direct, deep, and meaningful understanding of your mutual customers. They can help connect with customers through things like regular surveys and focus groups. If your relationship is strong, the business can both benefit from the findings in the form of an even deeper understanding of customers’ needs and wants.
Strategy Before Tactics:
Whether you’ve been warned that forsaking strategy is like a “Fire, Ready, Aim” approach, or if you see it as committing “random acts of marketing” – either way, it will quickly be apparent that not having a clear and well-thought-out roadmap in place before execution is a surefire recipe for disappointment.
Has this happened? You’ve had a success where the company admittedly got lucky and managed to stumble upon the right results. Count your blessings, but this, in the overall analysis, is not a good thing: In fact, it’s a disappointment.
Here’s why: Because the results were achieved by committing random acts of marketing, and you likely have no idea what worked and what didn’t. And it’s rare that the same formula, or even another spin of the marketing roulette wheel, would be successful next time. As a result, you will not know what to STOP doing from your randomly created potion that seems to work.
As the classic adage of advertising – uttered nearly a century ago by John Wannamaker – goes: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Doing strategic thinking before execution will significantly reduce your “wasted” dollars, while allowing you to track and measure success and to continue to refine your marketing machine.
If history tells us anything, it’s that consistency is key to surviving, and thriving, the most difficult times. By taking some time now to renew your focus on what’s important to your business, you’ll be ready to embrace growth, no matter what the season.
So, in these turbulent times, what actions have you taken today that were strategically focused on the customer?
Atul Minocha is Partner & CMO with Chief Outsiders, the nation’s leading fractional CMO firm focused on mid-size company growth. He works with global healthcare, automotive, technology, software and industrial goods companies to solve seemingly inextricable growth challenges. More information at www.chiefoutsiders.com