Summer’s over, and the process of business planning for the coming new year has begun—or is getting ready to begin—for many business leaders, most especially for the customers and buyers.
Budgeting is often the primary planning task. This is a process that some business leaders enjoy but others hate; regardless, it has to be done.
However, budgeting isn’t the only important planning that should be done for 2014.
Getting to Know Customers
An often-overlooked aspect of business planning is learning about customers and buyers in order to develop strategies to better serve them and increase revenue.
Keeping focused on customers and buyers can be difficult as a company conducts its daily operations. Immediate concerns often eat up any time that might be spent on planning to improve the company’s customer relationships. But time must be made—if a company isn’t developing strong relationships with its customers, it’s heading for failure.
The Right Attitude
Strengthening customer relationships is more than simply a sales and marketing issue. Every contact a customer has with a company employee—whatever their role is—will impact the customer’s perceptions of the company. Therefore, a commitment to excellent customer service should be an enterprise-wide priority.
Connecting with customers means talking to them in “their language” rather than the technical jargon. Companies need to find out customers’ pain points and address those. Successful businesses provide customers with what they need and want—not what’s easiest to sell them.
GE and Intel serve as examples of businesses that have made a solid effort to create an enterprise-wide commitment to satisfying customers, and they actively incorporate customer and buyer insights into their business planning.
Where the Focus Should Be
An honest self-assessment of customer relationships can reveal to a business what needs to be done to achieve the level of customer satisfaction and loyalty that is necessary for profitable growth.
For many companies, this assessment will reveal shortcomings that need to corrected. This can be done in three ways:
- Getting to know the new breed of customers and buyers whom the company is currently serving and trying to reach.
- Working to ensure that existing and prospective customers and buyers have good awareness of the company.
- Making a focused effort to add new customers.
As B2B enterprises plan for 2014, they should never forget about the importance of understanding the needs and desires of customers and buyers—and of being able to meet those needs.