Most businesses we encounter in our practice appear from the outside to be “doing fine”, and its only after a few pointed key questions of the senior management do the challenges and problems surface. Most business owners feel that they “know their customers” and understand them sufficiently to serve them and sell to them. Yet, when we initiate some customer insight research, we inevitably find that there are many facets to their customer base, some of whom are being served well (the Core), some of whom are being served peripherally (the Fringe), and some of whom are being completely ignored, if not disenfranchised (the Outliers). If our research is structured correctly, we can uncover areas of growth potential in all three groups, providing tremendous opportunities for most businesses to significantly move the needle on sales and revenue. These are five ways our results can be directed toward growth:
- Tighten the focus on the Core. While these folks are generally repeat customers, long-terms clients and loyal to a fault, they can always increase their numbers, frequency and volume, often by tightening and focusing messaging, narrowing media choices to those that are most effective, and “clipping the menu” of benefits, product offerings and services to those that they frequently enjoy.
- Uncover Opportunity Within The Fringe. Infrequent customers, on and off clients, low-volume buyers, those with a high browse-to-buy ratio, are where the greatest opportunities often lie. There is the largest potential for growth among this group, to bring them up to the level of the Core group and beyond, by tailoring the product, packaging, messaging, media selection, and benefit focus to their needs. Now you have to uncover those real needs and cater to them to beef up the volume and frequency of their behavior.
- Learn About Off-Label Uses From the Fringe. Occasionally, our research will uncover a related, but not fully realized, use for a product or service, one that the product wasn’t designed for, but that customers saw as a functional substitute for something else. Sometimes this warrants a small product or packaging change to accommodate and expand upon before offering it to customers. Sometimes this reveals co-packaging, or co-marketing opportunities previously not realized, which lead to whole new revenue streams. These can also present opportunities to bring the Outliers in closer and boost their volume using the new product usage as a lever.
- Call In The Outliers. Discovering the resistance points and friction points in doing business with you or buying your products often presents itself most readily when speaking with the Outliers. These folks bought from you or worked with you for one or a couple of several real reasons: you were the only game in town at the time; you were the least expensive; you were the most convenient to their current circumstances; they were pressed for time and didn’t want to make a conscious choice. These are targets of opportunity, but they will show up where your customer interface is weak, where there are barriers to convenience, obstacles to purchase, price sensitivity, weaknesses in package focus, product size, and a host of small deficiencies that these casual buyers won’t surmount to buy from you. Something as simple as a slightly smaller size for sale at convenience outlets, or a reduced service package for smaller customers, can boost sales noticeably at minimal cost, and keep margins intact.
- Find A New Sector. Within each of the other sector targets there will be clues as to a new customer sector that’s out there being ignored or forgotten, and they will reveal themselves through the conversations with both Outliers and Fringe customers. They answer questions about current behaviors beginning with “Well, I used to do ____, but now . . .” They refer to a previous reason to buy that may or may not currently exist with the current product or service, or that existed with another brand they bought before switching, and that’s where the opportunity lies. Ferret out those differences, those “old” reasons and see if they still exist, you might have turned off a whole sector of customers and didn’t know it by making a change earlier that you can now revisit and capture them back.
The name of the game is knowing your customer base better, segmenting your offering appropriately, and hunting for clues of things that turn them on and off and using that knowledge to your advantage in the marketplace to approach each group as efficiently and effectively as possible.
If you think your business can benefit from knowing your customers better for any of the above reasons, or something entirely different, you owe it to yourself to investigate further. The costs are far outweighed by the benefits in both the short- and long-term.