Knowing Your Customer’s Purpose Becomes Key To Business Success

CEO at WinWire Technologies, assisting Senior IT Leaders in helping them support business transformation.

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Lower prices and higher quality have been the cornerstones for corporate marketing and sales teams for more than a century. Not anymore. A dramatic change is taking place in what moves consumers from browsing to purchasing, and the need to understand how your product or service meshes with a customer’s core beliefs is replacing the traditional metrics.

Now more than ever, enterprises must know what motives their customers. The pandemic increased competition, and many firms struggled to survive during these unprecedented, turbulent times. In fact, when the pandemic started, buyers planned to cut almost half of their discretionary spending, according to McKinsey. Challenging times indeed.

A Focus On The Entire System And Not Just One Piece

Therefore, businesses must recognize what drives sales, and customers’ purchasing criteria are evolving dramatically and changing how business is conducted. In the past, corporate shareholders’ benefit was all management needed to concern themselves with. No more. Sales’ impact is viewed through a much wider lens — one that in a growing number of cases takes a holistic, worldwide view about each purchase. Rather than a discrete transaction, acquisition becomes a cascading event — one that impacts individuals, communities and the world.

To be successful, corporations need to understand their customer’s purpose (what they value) and then align their sales and marketing to it. Since this is an emerging area of emphasis, enterprises must revamp their organizations and put new business processes and marketing approaches in place.

The process begins with examining their corporate vision. Typically, a vendor emphasized a narrow, short-term benefit, say, saving the customer money, as the foundation to build the business. Purpose aspires to higher, more esoteric goals. The emphasis is on shared experiences, moments, feelings and interactions that the supplier and customer create together. Verizon views its purpose as: “We create the networks that move the world forward.”

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Suffer Social Media’s Wrath

While it is easy to mouth platitudes and make it seem like a vendor’s values help companies and consumers live more fulfilling lives, the real challenge is aligning a firm’s business processes, so it supports their clients’ purpose. If a company claims to support a cause in its marketing materials, it has to be sure that its business units work toward that goal. 

Individuals and organizations monitor such interactions and are ready to call out firms for overstating their claims or missing the mark. If suppliers do not take the needed steps, they may suffer the wrath of irate customers who often voice their objections loudly via social media channels. For instance, in 2019, Gillette released an advertisement highlighting toxic masculinity, a theme that did not align with its customers’ values, so they encountered a backlash.

In such cases, suppliers suffer many financial ramifications. Revenue and stock prices drop, but they also lose intangibles, such as customer trust, brand equity and credibility. Therefore, corporations need to tread carefully into these areas and ensure that their business promises, practices and policies connect with their customers’ purpose.

A Dramatic Change In Performance Indicators

One change centers on the metrics organizations use to measure individual, business unit and corporate success. Traditionally, enterprises created key performance indicators (KPI) that established and tracked different goals. These items often centered around what was needed to transform a prospect into a customer. A new measurement, customer performance indicators, is gaining traction. In this case, the emphasis shifts from how well a company sells its products to how well a corporation supports its customer’s purpose. The difference? The former emphasizes what the company cares about and the latter on customer concerns.

So what interests customers? Often, whenever a customer interacts with a potential vendor, their goal is clear: get the information they require as soon as possible. In some cases, meeting that desire meant providing helpful information on a website. But historically, businesses have been leery of publishing pricing data for various reasons, such as fearing they divulge too proprietary information. This example illustrates the dichotomy that sometimes arises between a company’s best interest and a client’s desire.

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In other cases, especially in the B2B space, the customer needs access to experts, individuals familiar with both the company’s services and the customer’s industry. Increasingly, such a request has to be processed quickly and efficiently.

Forge A Tight Bond

The result of successful interactions may not be an immediate sale. Instead, it creates an emotional connection — one that will either lead to a sale somewhere down the line or result in the customer shunning the product. If the vendor accommodates the request, a positive connection is made, and more exchanges are likely. If they do not, then the customer may never contact them again. 

Organizations need to recalibrate their operations, business practices, reporting and employee goals, so they all connect to helping customers achieve their purposes. Such changes are challenging because humans embrace the familiar and are intimidated by the novel.

However, if a business can make the transition, employees as well as the company and the client benefit. Employees often feel slighted when performance evaluations focus on rigidly defined job descriptions and corporate contributions measured in shallow, short-term, financial goals. They too desire a greater purpose, one where their work becomes something more than a number on a spreadsheet. By providing them with loftier goals, organizations improve employee job satisfaction, loyalty and retention, which benefits the company as well as the employee.

A change is taking place in how thriving organizations are built. Customer-focused, purpose-driven thinking is usurping ‘old school’ business principles. Switching from the old to the new is difficult but necessary for organizations trying to build an enterprise with a bright future.

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