When Did My Customers Start Knowing More About Me Than I Know About Them?

Jennifer Schulze

For many businesses, the power of the customer in today’s information-driven digital Woman shopping online --- Image by © Laura Doss/Corbiseconomy is a sobering reality. The customer has stolen the megaphone from the marketers who were broadcasting messages to the masses, and it’s their voice that’s being heard now.

What does that mean for businesses? If your service or product doesn’t meet or exceed expectations, everyone — customer or not — will offer their opinions.

Don’t market meat to a vegetarian: Know your customers as well as they know you

Customers are now able to get exactly what they need and want in real time. They have limited patience for content or products that do not meet their buying preferences or are marketed improperly or offensively. Not realizing this new reality will ultimately prove to be detrimental to your brand.

Here are five ways you can get to know your customers as well — or almost as well — as they know you:

  1. Don’t try to be everything to every consumer. Your business model is now in the hands of all customers. Building platforms around your consumers’ needs and exhibiting desire to interact is a great start. However, this also leads to a significant problem: knowing where to go next. Our lust for capitalism has created a stalemate because at this point, the things your customers own are helping other companies make money. To differentiate your brand, you must specialize. This could mean in specific industries and business processes, or even just in owning a market segment.
  1. Embrace data science to power marketing strategies. Understand how your purchase and customer behavior data can be applied to your targeted marketing efforts. For example, some retailers are using satellite imagery to determine shopping behaviors so it can see when people come and go so they can adequately staff stores during busiest hours. This has allowed stores like Lowe’s better manage staffing hours by determining the busiest shopping times and even to see if shoppers are getting lost in the store or parking lot.
  1. Acknowledge that you are competing in a digital economy and act like it. As customers demand access to service, data, and interaction 24x7x365, they will also expect a buying experience that is simple, done within a few clicks, and consistent no matter what they are purchasing. Otherwise, businesses run the risk of suffering a slow, painful death because consumers will not accept disconnected service. By investing in cloud, social, and mobile technologies, you can create an integrated, around-the-clock experience that wows your customers — every single time.
  1. Address unhappy customers and resolve problems – quickly and to their satisfaction. Customers who experience bad interactions with a brand are three times more likely to broadcast it than those who receive good service, according to American Express’s 2014 Global Customer Service Barometer. Do everything in your power to give existing customers a reason to praise your brand to potential new customers, not only because their business is worth keeping, but also because doing so avoids negative exposure.
  1. Go beyond communicating in social media – listen! Now more than ever, customers rely on the endorsements of their friends and colleagues either in real life or through Twitter, Facebook, and customer review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. For example, more than 1 million people view tweets about customer experiences every week — and most of them are negative or critical. Knowing what is said about your brand online give you greater visibility into where you’re succeeding and where improvement is needed.

Now that you have insight into how you can get to know your customers and compete in a landscape where your competitors can be virtually anyone and everyone, stay tuned for Part 4 of this series, which answers the question: How can I find the talent I need to solve the challenges I don’t even know I have yet?

In the meantime, check out the latest research, statistics, and opinions about the digital economy and its impact.

About Jennifer Schulze

Jennifer Schulze is Vice President of marketing for SAP. In her role, she manages customer marketing as part of the office of the COO. She has over 15 years of technology marketing and management experience and is a small business owner in the San Francisco Bay area.