The DNA of Your Business
LISTEN. Understand. Empathize. Comprehend. Plan. Create. Execute. Measure. LISTEN.
These words are at the very core of any company that has a set mission and vision. They are the very nucleus and DNA that makes your company what it is. They are the foundation that holds up everything in your company no matter how large or small your company is.
Without any of these words, your company will live an expensive and painful life. Marketing will be harder to measure. Selling will always require YOU! Growth will become a guessing game. Money will be lost in a much longer “learning curve.”
I find many companies that do a great job at most of these points, but they are missing at least one or two of them which is impeding the growth of their company. It took me 9 years to truly understand the importance of these words and why I struggled to grow past a certain point.
Listen First and Last
When all of these words are working synergistically, your company will grow faster than you can imagine.
Your vision WILL become a reality.
Customers WILL love you.
Marketing DOES become easier. Yes, I say easier.
Selling DOES become easier.
You’ll know EXACTLY what to measure.
I think you get the point here, but let’s talk about where it all starts and ends. LISTENING!
Listening is a Learned Experience
In the past 10 years of being in the digital media world, I created a total of 13 products under the Phase 2 Solutions umbrella. Lucky me 🙂 but 11 of them no longer exist. I dumped thousands of hours and dollars into each one. Some of them took off and were on the verge of growth, but then died a slow death because of one thing: I didn’t stay FOCUSED on listening to my customers. I would listen in the beginning, but as the products would evolve I wouldn’t maintain a sense of community that kept me in tune with my customers’ needs.
For example, one of my products (brands) was called Central PA Experts, which was launched in 2009. The concept came out of the frustration I had trying to blog on my own in order to build a brand for myself locally. Central PA Experts was a concept that brought together multiple professionals in a variety of industries to blog on one site, thus providing the opportunity to reach new LOCAL people in a format unlike any other. At its peak, the website was generating roughly over 30,000 visits per month, most of which was local traffic coming from local websites and the email campaigns from each expert.
My growth strategy was spending time with each expert to explain the program, understanding their pain points and signing them up. All of the features of the system, marketing methods and even price point was centered around the conversations I had. My customers told me what they wanted and I delivered. After 6 months from the launch, I had a little over 50 experts signed up to the program. At that point, I was focused on how to scale this program to either add more experts (customers) or launch sites in new geographical regions. Needless to say, my focus shifted away from what had made the program successful from the beginning, listening to my customers.
My move was to change the name from Central PA Experts to more a global name that would seemingly open the doors to more experts and more revenue. Well, I was wrong. VERY WRONG! The name change and shifting the focus away from the LOCAL nature of the site made it less appealing for experts to blog on the site. Most of the customers I had all benefited greatly from local website traffic so a site with global appeal removed that benefit and also removed the point of differentiation with other online publishing solutions at the time. Customers started to lose interest and drop-off. It was definitely a gut wrenching feeling.
Years later I reconnected with some of the customers I had on Central PA Experts and every single one of them told me the greatest appeal of the program was the local exposure received from it. Going back, I should have asked my own customers how they thought I should scale the program. It would have not only given me this information, but also made them feel part of the success of the program (i.e. the brand community).
Make Listening a Planned Event
The main point here is to not just make listening to customers part of something you do in the beginning of your business or during a sales process. Listening to customers needs to be part of EVERY stage of your business growth. The key is to not just to get this concept, but to institute a platform and a process behind it. Make listening a planned event. When your customers know you’ve instituted a platform and a process behind giving them a voice, they will become your sales force. They will become your market research. They will become your marketing team. They will become the very community that supports your business growth.
Implement a Customer Listening System (CLS)
Let’s grab a cup of coffee sometime and chat about how you can start instituting a platform and process behind LISTENING to your customers (i.e. a Customer Listening System) to build a true brand community that supports your mission.