The world is changing, so are your customers
Tips to help your business scale through a global crisis.
As the global crisis continues, a lot of us are experiencing a significant loss in revenue like no other. Our customers’ needs, values, and most importantly buying habits have taken on a new perspective. In times past, companies have managed to remain relevant and gain the most success out of a crisis by staying closely connected to customers. This begs the question, how can we evolve your business to adapt and cater to new demands?
Start with the right strategy
You might think to take advantage of the recent surge in online use to increase marketing efforts to reach customers. But is that really what your business needs?
Particularly in times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can have an immediate and lasting effect on their sense of trust and loyalty. In an attempt to continue running business as usual, you risk coming across as tone-deaf and even seeming irrelevant to your customers.
Having a strategy to navigate your business’ survival is important. But even more important is ensuring that you pair your strategies with the right execution.
“A strategy, even a great one, does not implement itself correctly” — Jeroen De Flander
Going by this perspective, you may consider asking yourself:
- Who exactly are the customers I’m trying to reach?
- What are they thinking and feeling right now?
- What are their new values and needs?
- How do they want to feel?
- What impact do these factors have on how they interact with your product?
What becomes more apparent is that there’s no way that you can guess all of the insights, motivations, and understanding that every single one of your customers has. And there’s really no way that your team can represent a whole world of people that might want to use a product or service. This is where research comes in.
Listen to your customers
Across every industry, almost nothing will have a bigger impact on your business than listening to the people you serve. As Jotform CEO Aytekin Tank says:
“User research is your biggest weapon. When you listen to your customers, you can create new opportunities on your own terms, instead of fighting for space in a crowded ring.”
Now is the time to position your business at the forefront of long-term shifts in customer behaviours that are resulting from the crisis.
In fact, with changes happening at a dizzying pace — from new habits being formed on a large scale, to shifts in personal and professional goals — there are new business opportunities and needs emerging that need to be better understood.
“In every crisis, lies great opportunity.” — Albert Einstein
Uncover new opportunities
Entrepreneurs know that some of the best businesses come out of the worst times — because sometimes in our darkest moments, new ideas and innovations give beacons of light. All we need is the glow of a great idea.
Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating to reinvent journeys that matter in different contexts will be key to finding such ideas.
For instance, to inform their strategy, a store could find it helpful to ask these relevant questions:
Relevant questions to inform your strategy
By looking at research data, the store can begin to draw some conclusions about what customers are doing — or not doing — and why.
This would provide them with key insights they need to make effective decisions and meet the demands of customers in today’s climate.
Ask the right questions
A huge part of making effective decisions lies in our ability to ask ourselves and equally others — the right questions. It sets the stage for everything else.
You’ll need these answers to develop effective strategies, get your team the data they need to align their vision, get them thinking, and get everyone on the right path to achieving the best solutions.
Jotform CEO Aytekin Tank, has a few more pointers on how asking the right questions plays an integral role in a company’s path to success.
Now while there are tons of questions to be answered, you do not want to end up on a wild goose chase. It’s easy to get stuck in a loop — continuously asking questions and yet arriving at no strong leads because of bad data. Worst still, you might be using up a lot of valuable resources in the process.
The best way to ease this problem is to have someone on your team who knows their way around the scene. Moreso, because of social distancing, they would have to find creative ways to do research remotely.
Luckily, the user research community is home to some of the most resourceful, and empathetic people, who are finding innovative ways to navigate this new reality.
Advance with less risk and more direction
Perhaps the most valuable use of our customer insights is getting to learn what to avoid and why it should be avoided. It typically means less risk, making it easier for your team to move forward with clear direction.
“The essence of strategy is also choosing what not to do.” — Michael Porter
That risk may include everything from a confusing workflow, to marketing a product nobody actually wants or needs. Without research, your team is operating without an advantage and are left to make assumptions about your customers that may or not be accurate.
Chances are, you all spend 40+ hours a week working on your products. It gets increasingly hard to remove that internal bias when reviewing the outcomes. This typically results in having to fix a lot of issues as they arise, incurring major costs that could be well avoided in the first place.
It’s hard to truly create value without understanding your target customers or their needs. It’s even more of a mistake to think: “We can’t afford research.” Nope. At this point — you can’t afford to not undertake user research — it is critical. It’s better to undertake some research than no research at all. You risk finding out the long way what it means to invest in a costly flop.
The benefits of continuous organic contact with your customers are hard to overstate. You increase your understanding of their needs, learn how to attract new customers, and how to keep your existing ones happy — all critical for winning in today’s market.
Luckily, there are cool and practical ways to automate the customer feedback process so you always have existing research data to work with. Be sure to look out for my next article where I talk about this.