Relationships Drive Business

Strengthening Customer Engagement to Propel Your Business

Examine the Context of Your Customer Relationship-Part 1 June 22, 2009

Filed under: Ideas,Leadership,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 5:32 pm

As we look at building and executing customer specific strategy, the first step is to understand where you are now.  Confusion about where you are now will create more chaos later, so work through the context process so you end up with clarity.

Examining and understanding the context of your customer involves 5 parts.  The goal with Context is to look at the current and historical situation about the customer.  The first 2 parts are current/historical perspectives, the other 3 look current/forward.

  1. Who is the Customer
  2. Who is the Customer to You
  3. Industry Landscape
  4. Goals-yours and theirs
  5. External Impacters

There will be a separate post on each of the five parts, and I will give you some perspectives to consider for each as well as some examples.  Keep in mind you can build your Context picture with all parts simultaneously.  The steps are not in “order”, they are simply organized to help present them in a streamlined way.

Part 1–Who is Your Customer?

Build a richly textured view of who the client’s identity.  The big question is:  How are they known to others.  There are a tremendous number of placed to look to build this picture.  Gather information from as many resources as possible, internally and externally.  Each resource will give you elements to add to the overall picture, some will be clear, others more subliminal and nuanced.  Pay attention to each, they are all important.

Ten perspectives to consider:

  1. What do you know them as now, AND how that has evolved through your shared history
      • Have they come to rely on you more or less over time
      • What is their culture as you experience it
      • How have attitudes toward you evolved
      • How has their focus on your relationship changed
      • Don’t bring in hard financial data yet, it comes into play in Part 2-Who is the Customer to You
      1. What do their websites say is important to them
          • What your initial impression of the site, and what does that speak to
          • Is it up to date, look at newsroom and media releases
          • What is their style
          • Do they have job postings, how savvy is the app process
          • How do they present senior management and the board
          • Is one division’s site more current than another division
          • Do different divisions have cohesive image
          • What do other vendors say about them
          • What experience do they give their customers
            • Call their toll free number-see what it’s like
          • What is their social media image-what is being said about them on the internet
          • What are their mission and vision statements
          • What industry are they in
            • in their eyes
            • in your eyes as an outsider looking at them
          • Have they always been in the same industry
              • What precipitated that industry change
              • IBM-used to be in the hardware business, now they are in the open source and consulting business.
              • GE-used to be in the manufacturing business, now they are primarily a finance company
            1. What are they within their industry
              • Market Leader
              • Price Leader
              • Cutting Edge
              • Fast Follower
              • Value Player
              • Dinosaur raking in cash
            2. Do a SWOT analysis
              • Strengths
              • Weaknesses
              • Opportunities
              • Threats

                Going through the process above is pretty quick.  Don’t skimp on the process, it gives you the big picture.  You may know many of the answers without actually doing any research, that’s great.  Take the time to write down or snag visual and audio examples of what you know.  When it comes to selling your strategy to others, the examples will come in handy.

                Consider engaging someone else in the discovery process.  Someone less intimate with the relationship will give you surprising insight.

                Next post, Part 2-Who is the Customer to You.

                Until next time,



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