Marketing Reflections for 2021 to Prepare for 2022

I recently attended a webinar that focused on what has happened to the customer experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key conclusion from the presenters is that there is a disconnect between what customers want from their customer experience and what companies think they want. For example, 58 per cent of brands believed that high quality is the most important factor for customers, while customers only placed the importance of high quality at 35 per cent – a significant gap.

The other factors that were included as responses similarly showed the disconnect between brand view of priority and customer view of priority. This tells me that knowing your customer better becomes an even stronger need than ever before. Great companies continuously study buying patterns and review customer feedback to see what customer habits and priorities may have changed.

Companies typically have a substantial amount of data, yet they are starved for customer insights. With so much data available this means that often no decision is made, or an erroneous decision is made using incomplete or inaccurate information.

The insights that are gained through this analysis must then be applied to your business processes and decisions, so that your customer experience delivered by the company is solid. Too often we hear about “best practices” and comparisons to industry leaders. Companies often shift their approach to mimic someone else rather than create what should be specific to their business and customers based on the direct feedback their customers have provided.

Assessing your 2021 marketing activities, where marketing is defined as everything you do to find and keep a customer, will provide the foundation for improvement in 2022. A look back to help guide your efforts forward is a useful exercise that great companies conduct. Why don’t you do it?

One important approach that leading companies use is to really understand their business from the inside, so that it is properly set up – people, processes, and systems – to serve customers efficiently and effectively. This approach is more than simply taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. You need to know specifically what is helping or hurting your business performance today so that you can build from the appropriate aspects.

One of my colleagues, Andy Bass, PhD., author of Start With What Works, has consulted with many organizations to help them build from their current strengths rather than tearing down and rebuilding from the ground up. He says, “Management agendas tend to focus on fixing what doesn’t work. It makes sense up to a point: organizations need good problem-solvers who are looking for what is not working so they can run in and solve it. But it becomes a very limiting habit. When you’re always asking, ‘What’s not working? Why aren’t we doing better?’ your focus is on limitations, roadblocks, even excuses. I get leaders to ask, ‘Why aren’t we doing worse?’ It sounds counter-intuitive, but the answers can uncover hidden gold – things only you do, that are valued by customers and can boost your differentiation.”

As you can see, the concept of starting with what you are doing well is essential to guiding you for the future by building from your current capabilities. I believe Andy’s question “why aren’t we doing worse?” is one of the most insightful and introspective questions that is never asked. When you really consider this question, you are forcing yourself to be objective in your assessment and find your strengths and the foundation upon which you can build forward.

My previous articles have brought examples of poor customer experiences. Not just poor customer service, but poor overall customer experiences. Companies that are customer-centric can objectively review all their customer touchpoints from the customer’s perspective to make sure they deliver what they said they would deliver.

Consider this last point more closely – deliver what you said you would deliver. It sounds like just getting the basic job done. And yet there are so few examples where people deliver a memorable performance. When you start building from your strengths you use the company processes, systems, and stellar employees that provided real excellence, not simply standard performance.

Once you have assessed and reconfigured your approach for 2022 the real work begins. Ensure your employees are trained with your systems and processes, so they can manage all customer interactions. Look for ways to truly delight customers and encourage your employees to exercise judgment in making these decisions. Based on the survey results shared earlier, there is plenty of opportunity for your company to improve your customer experience.

Tim’s bits: The more you can move away from margin draining sales prices and promotions and just deliver what your customer needs, the more successful your business will be. Starting with what works allows you to build on your strengths and focus forward with knowledge to create a better customer experience. You want to make it easy for customers to do business with you at every touchpoint. This is your foundation for your 2022 winning game plan.

Tim Kist is a Certified Management Consultant, authorized by law, and a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Manitoba.

Tim Kist

Tim Kist

Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.

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