We’ve all heard the stories about the late Steve Jobs and his assertion that he knew better about what the people wanted then the people themselves. While this bold attitude worked well for Apple, you have to remember that what Apple was really selling was not just a product but also a tightly controlled experience. Just like Disney, where they control the entire family experience, so does Apple with every single detail down to the actual packaging of the device. While some people just see the device they are buying, others have bought into the entire experience of simplicity of design, product ease of use and being part of an almost elite club of Apple adopters. Most who buy an Apple product will often proclaim they love everything Apple. It’s almost a cult-like attitude and, at least for now, Apple can pull it off. But guess what, you’re not Apple and nor are most companies looking to grow their business. It’s really even okay that you’re not Apple, but keep in mind since you aren’t Apple you also can’t act like Apple.
All too often I see both businesses and marketers who lose sight of not only what their customers need, but also often what their customers are even asking for in the first place. Take Starbucks for example. For over 40 years Starbucks was doing very well. In the last few years, however, spending money on a high priced cup of coffee became a luxury rather then a necessity. Also for over 40 years Starbucks was only serving dark roast coffee with no excuses as to its flavor and strength, while alienating a specific sub-set of coffee drinkers who would often criticize Starbucks coffee as being too strong or even having a burnt taste. Most of these people would either show a vocal disinterest in the Starbucks coffee brand or be converted to one of the more expensive but sugary drinks which Starbucks offers. With the economic downturn of the past few years, Starbucks lost customers, closed stores, brought back their former CEO and was desperately in search of ways to increase sales and identify new customers.
Pictured: The original Starbucks coffee shop in Seattle, Washington
What Starbucks finally did was actually listen to their customers. Starbucks realized that for years people have been asking for a variety in the flavor of the coffee, something other than the bold dark roast they’ve been serving all these years. Could it be true, could the answer to increased customers and profitability be right in front of their face all the time and all they had to do was listen to their customers? Starbucks found that while many people were perfectly content with the rich dark roast, a large number of their current and previous customers actually wanted a lighter roast, while others preferred more of medium roast. So after 40 years of serving only a dark roast coffee, Starbucks finally introduced ‘blonde’, a new lighter roast coffee and ‘medium’ a new smooth and balanced roast of coffee to their product offering in the hope of regaining and capturing additional customers. The moral of the story: pay attention and listen to what your customers are saying and ensure that you’re not only providing them what you think they want, but you’re also providing them with what they really want.
With the abundance of technology today, including Social Media channels, it’s relatively easy engage and interact with both customers and prospects to get a good understanding of their opinion of your brand and your products and to also understand if you’re doing a good job at meeting their expectations. Once you’re sure you’ve fully listened to what your customers and prospects have to say have created a viable product offering for them, you can then start to use marketing tools such as Database Marketing, Data Profiling, Data Modeling, Data Analytics and Customer Intelligence to help identify your best customers and prospects. Then you can focus on the various inbound marketing channels such as Web and Social Media paired with traditional marketing channels to create a Multi-Channel engagement strategy. This overall approach will help grow your business by finding new customers while retaining existing customers and continuing customer engagement to help stay on track and remain relevant in your industry.