By Tony Coretto, Founder of PNT Marketing Services, Inc.
January 26, 2006
Today's business leaders are discovering that, more than ever before, increased knowledge of their customers equals greater profits. As a business owner, you need to be asking yourself the following questions:
* How well do I really know my customers? What am I doing with the knowledge I already have to serve them better?
* Do I spend more time constantly finding new customers, or building relationships-and profits-with current ones?
* Do the right people in our company have the right customer information at the right time?
When you use the power of what you know about your customers to enhance your marketing efforts, you're using "customer intelligence." No company today can maximize its potential for success without it.
Even the Smallest Companies Can Develop Customer Intelligence
You don't need a fancy CRM tool or an expensive Data Warehouse like the big companies do in order to profit from customer intelligence. Today's technological advances have made PCs faster, storage more plentiful, software more powerful - and everything much cheaper. Add an ever-expanding Internet, and you've got all the ingredients for a customer intelligence revolution that puts tremendous power in the hands of the smallest companies and levels the playing field.
How to Increase Your Customer IQ…and Boost Profits
Here are five fundamental concepts you can act on today to increase your customer intelligence.
#1 Engage in honest, two-way dialogue with your customers--and learn from them. Customers today demand to be heard, and what they have to say is valuable - they'll tell you about their problems, their needs, and their ideas to help you develop better products and services. All you have to do is listen - and act on what you've heard. Companies who truly engage their customers develop deep, trusting relationships with them that are extremely profitable. And remember: if you aren't listening to your customers, your competitors are.
#2 Communicate with your customers according to their preferences, not yours. Keep track of which of your customers interact with you via your website or e-mail, which by phone, which by mail, and which by coming into your locations. Following their lead is an immediate way to build closer relationships with them.
#3 Build your marketing efforts around your customers' expressed needs, not around your products. Henry Ford used to say that his customers could have any color Model T they wanted - as long as it was black. Today, customers have the upper hand and if you don't tailor your products and services to them, you're out of business - because someone else will.
#4 Unlock the value hidden in what you already know about your customers. If you already have a customer database (or customer list, or accounting system, or contact management system, or any other method of storing data on your customers), you probably aren't maximizing its value to build customer relationships. Rule Number 1 is to use that data to figure out who your most profitable (and least profitable) customers are. Rule Number 2 is to treat them differently. Two simple rules, yet a world of difference to your bottom line.
#5 Develop long-term relationships with the right customers - it pays. Everyone knows it costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to hang onto an old one - up to 3 or 4 times more. Doesn't it make sense to devote scarce resources to developing deeper relationships with your existing customers, listening to them, meeting their needs, and making those relationships as profitable as they can be?
Use these guidelines to start building your customer intelligence - and remember to track your progress. You'll find yourself reaping the rewards immediately. What's more, your growing customer knowledge will lead you to new business solutions, new customers, and new growth strategies that will build your business over the long term.