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What advisers are saying: Marketing


The importance of understanding how customers are using your products and services, and what experience they have with you, features somewhere on the first page of the idiot’s guide to marketing.

This understanding was probably there at the birth of nearly all successful businesses. But the tendency is for businesses to gradually shift from really knowing their customers by being close to them, to assuming they know what their customers need.

They become absorbed with internal processes to reduce operational costs and increase profit margins. As focus turns inward, they begin to lose their focus on the customer. They assume that they still know their customers.

It does not matter how much regulatory pressure there is, this is seriously dangerous.

Fact is things change: customers’ needs change, their expectations change and the competitive environment changes.

In 1996, Interbrand ranked Kodak the fourth most-valuable brand in the world, just behind Disney, Coca Cola and McDonalds. Today on the stock market, Disney is worth $125 bn, Coca-Cola is worth $177 bn, McDonald’s is worth $96 bn and Kodak has only just emerged from bankruptcy.

The smash and grab emergence of the digital format has been a big factor but ironically in 1976, it was Kodak who invented the digital camera then systematically failed to do anything with it.

This failure paints a stark reminder of the cost of missed opportunities. As customers were getting on board celebrating the arrival of the digital revolution, Kodak management stayed the course with its traditional film and camera lines. Believing that its loyal customer base would never desert its famous products with the yellow and red logo, a somewhat arrogant leadership ignored what was happening around them.

This is an extreme example but when you really know why your current customers are choosing you over your competition, you will know what to do to both retain them and attract new clients. But you must first get to the real reasons why customers do business with you. Otherwise, you will end up with meaningless information like almost everybody else wastes their marketing efforts with. You have seen it; “independent financial planning” and “friendly, professional advice”.

When a business knows why consumers should do business with them, and know why current customers do conduct business with them, they have the information necessary to focus relentlessly on the stuff that really adds value and sets you apart. The rest is waste.

Phil Wickenden is managing director of So Here’s The Plan

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