Just in time for marketing planning season, everyone is talking about the “must-have” elements for 2016. In his recent post, Dave Orecchio outlined the key elements for b2b marketers to create a “killer” marketing plan this year. He encourages marketers to add new ideas to the mix, rather than take the usual path, and highlights several key tactics to get there. However, one item I noticed missing from the list is a program to tap more deeply into the voice of the customer.
One of the most effective ways we have seen to cultivate new ideas to grow your business and jumpstart relationships is to tap into your customers. Integrating your customers’ insight and feedback into how you shape your strategy, build out your products and services, and take them to market helps to differentiate your company and deepen and grow revenue with your most important clients.
As you build out your 2016 marketing plan, consider adding one or more of these elements to position yourself for a great new year.
Start Small: Launch a Customer Insights Program
If you don’t yet have a formal program to talk to customers and gather their insights, put that high on your list for 2016. Start small by systematically interviewing a subset of your senior executive client contacts each quarter. The purpose of these one-on-one interviews is to go beyond day-to-day discussions of service or product delivery. Talk about broader business challenges, industry trends, future priorities, and overall satisfaction and gather feedback on the relationship. The interviews should be conducted by one of your senior team members, capable of a peer conversation with the client, and the feedback should be captured and analyzed individually and as a group for short term and longer term implications and actions required. The value in this effort is in the conversations: web surveys and multiple choice questions won’t deliver the depth and opportunity for interaction and follow up, and are often ignored by busy executives.
Grow Your Leverage: Integrate Customer Feedback
An area of low hanging fruit—one that is often missed in the day-to-day focus of tactical program execution—is launching an effort to systematically integrate all of the customer insights and input you receive across the enterprise. Whether it is survey feedback, customer interviews, client events, social media chatter, or conversations with their account teams, few companies have a great process to extract and funnel important insights and feedback from customers across the various channels and contact points. This is typically a question of the people, processes and technology that need to come together to create the environment and the tools to turn what you are already doing into a powerful point of leverage. (Click here to read more ideas on this.)
Get Strategic: Launch a Customer Advisory Board
If you want to make an impact on the strategic direction of your company, consider making 2016 the year you launch a customer advisory board. A client advisory board is a forum that brings together key clients and stakeholders multiple times a year to advise on strategy, product or service direction, and innovation. It serves as a strategy-level sounding board for your leadership team to learn from and better understand your most important senior executive clients, and for your clients to engage with peers to learn and contribute to shared exchange of value. An advisory board provides a unique forum for connecting with your key clients, and collaborating on the future direction of your company. This is a significant effort and requires senior level commitment, but done well results in increased account penetration, increased revenue, new product and service innovations and deeper, more loyal relationships. (To learn more about the power of client advisory boards, click here.)
Whichever path you take, make 2016 the year of customer insight.