If you’re plugged into the GBQ Redbank Advisors Profitable Growth Executive Breakfast Series, you’ve heard us talk about the power of your current customers for driving new business growth. This isn’t about that. This is about doing business with people you haven’t met yet or that you’ve served in the past, but are now no longer working with you.
To reach these customers requires a fundamental shift in what you’re doing. Whatever you’re doing that is pleasing the rest of your customers is not working to reach this crowd. So you need to start communicating with lost and aspirational customers on purpose.
For lost customers, create a report of people that used to buy from you and don’t anymore. Then conduct customer satisfaction research among the recent defectors and have an honest open ended discussion with them about why they left, how they like their new provider/supplier/service professional and what they can do better. Then ask the critical question: what will it take to get you back? And be prepared to hear difficult things. You may need to change a product or process or location. You may be priced wrong. There can be a million things. Listen carefully and then combine their answers with others. There are likely to be trends in the data that indicate blind spots you didn’t know about and some decisions you DID know about with expected and unexpected results. Let them talk and ask for lots of detail and clarification. Put on your best listening ears.
The process is the same, in fact the messages may be very similar, for aspirational customers; customers you have never served, but would like to. Here though, you should probe to understand why you haven’t been successful. It may be something related to your products and services, but it may also be related to the way you go to market or where you have been looking for customers. You will never know until you ask.
Your chief challenge in doing both types of calls will be leaving behind everything you know about customers, and your company, and listening with completely unbiased ears. This is difficult because you know more about the subject matter than they do. You know how to make the product or deliver the service. All they know about is the way they experience it. So focus on that and assume from the start that they are the expert on their own experience. It doesn’t matter at this stage why they are experiencing what they do. You simply want to understand it as thoroughly as you can.