Customer: Digital disruption is rewriting the rules of business and competition. With the fast-changing customer landscape, incumbent brands are at risk of being left behind. The alarming truth is that if you simply continue to do the same things that brought you success in the past, your business will most definitely fail. Conventional assumptions about value creation are becoming increasingly flaky and unable to deliver continuous profitable organic growth.
Having a brand that targets everyone is like not having a brand at all. Wide-eyed, rookie business owners tend to think that everyone in the world who has any use for their products or services is their potential client. Driven by this fallacy, they try to make everyone like their brand by saying all the right things, without ever alienating any single person. And that’s precisely where they go wrong.
Even looking back just five years ago, the customer landscape is so different. Back then, the majority of customers were looking for a balance of convenience and advice. But not anymore. These days, customers have polarized into two very different camps:
At one end of the spectrum, you have transactional customers who know what they want. They buy on price and convenience. To them, you’re a commodity. It’s very much an arms-length approach.
At the other end, you have consultative customers who value their time and are happy to invest time to meet with you. They want advice to help define their problems. And they want hand-holding. For them, it’s all about expertise, the relationship, and trust.
[READ MORE: Steps to developing a growth plan for your business]
Specific value propositions
So instead of servicing the middle ground, your overall growth planning needs to accommodate and reflect the shift in customer buying patterns so you can build strong, differentiated customer experience.
Whether you serve one group of customers or both, you need to transform your business to meet new customer expectations. And this means creating specific value propositions, messages and communications for those customers. Your approach to consultative customers’ needs to be different from how you service transactional customers. Customers demand relevant value propositions that meet their individual needs and preferences.
One side demands highly relevant specifically targeted value. The other simply wants good enough value at a low price. And if you don’t give it to them, they’ll simply seek out companies that can. That said, it’s worth noting that a transactional customer can evolve into a consultative customer when the need arises, and vice versa. Part of your growth planning is working out how you will serve them.
No middle ground
Whatever you do, don’t try to satisfy everyone with the same approach. Customers have moved from the middle ground. If you continue to service this space, you’ll soon be servicing no-one.
Why you need to keep certain people out of your business
Product businesses with no maintenance and low customer service needs may never come in touch with the majority of the people who buy their things. Think big retail brands like Unilever, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, etc. You get into the store, buy your thing, consume it shortly afterwards, and never look back again. Customers contact you only if they feel you’ve delivered a sub-par product to ask for a refund.
For service businesses and product businesses with high-touch customer service, it’s a completely different story; we remain in contact with the client for the entire duration of the project, and often even for months afterwards.
The client-professional relationship in this type of engagement is intense. You spend a lot of time talking, brainstorming, debating, presenting and supporting. Every interaction has potential for things to go wrong:
- Miscommunication and misunderstandings
- Difference in expectations
- Huge variation in client’s knowledge of your industry
- Unclear responsibilities
- Different standards of politeness and professionalism
The entire process is riddled with traps, and it doesn’t take much for things to turn south. In time, you’ll learn what types of people you play with. From the first email interaction, it will be clear as day whether this person is your Ideal Client or a Client from Hell (or anything in between).
Branding serves two purpose
Attracting the right kind of clients, and pushing away the wrong ones. We’re all different, and our tastes in friends and acquaintances differ. It’s the same with clients: they’re the people you spend a big chunk of your day with, and of course, you want this time to be as enjoyable as possible.
What is polarization?
Polarization is the effect that happens when you have a strong brand. Different people respond differently to a strong brand message: some love it, while others hate it. If your audience is just silently nodding their head, not responding at all, or ignoring you, this means you have a weak brand.
If you get a lot of positive responses to your marketing efforts, and a few critics or haters here and there, this means your message is strong, and you should keep up with what you’re doing. Having critics is a sign of a strong brand
If you don’t have any, this either means that you have a weak brand, or not enough people know you exist. Polarization is good. Don’t water yourself down for your clients. Be as picky with your clients as you are with your friends.
You can’t make everyone like you. The pressure of being liked and respected by every single person in the world is making you have boring and unremarkable branding and marketing decisions. Focus on the audience that really matters, and ignore the rest. Stand out and own your quirks.
Your brand answers your client’s question: “Is this business right for me?” Make sure the answer to that question comes out loud and clear.