We’re all in business for different reasons… But at the same time, we’re kind of all in business for the same reason. We want to make a positive difference in the world and change the world around us for the better. We want to enrich the lives of others and create opportunities to help people on a daily basis. In a capitalist society, there’s no more noble and effective way to do this than by going into business for yourself. Becoming an entrepreneur is a real journey of self-discovery. We learn a great deal about who we are, where our values lie and what we look for in others as we navigate the quotidian challenges that meet the average SME on a daily basis. We learn about what we’re good at. We learn where we need to focus our efforts to improve ourselves. We learn that our relationship with our business is like a microcosm of our relationship with ourselves (and it’s often a love / hate relationship). We learn how to instill our passion for our business in others as well as learning how, through training, we can empower our employees to be effective and autonomous ambassadors for our brand.
But in this culture of constant self-reflection and assessment; where so much of our time is occupied by performance metrics and business analytics, we mustn’t lose sight of what’s really important… Your customers. Do you know what your customers want from you in order to have meaningful engagement… Really? As entrepreneurs get more and more self-reflective they can develop the habit of focusing on the skills and attributes that they want to improve for themselves or their businesses and focusing on that… But to do this is to play a dangerous game that could risk alienating the customers who are your bread and butter. Likewise, you cannot make the mistake of assuming that your customers simply want to save money. Sure, some may be motivated by cost but it’s rarely a comprehensive answer to the question of what your customers want from you. Pursue this and this alone and you’ll find yourself racing your competitors to the bottom as your margins slowly dwindle. Inevitably you’ll have to compromise on the quality or range of goods and services you have to offer and your business’ reputation will suffer. It’s far more effective to carry out detailed market research to get to grips with what your customers really want. It could be any of the following…
A strong ethical focus
Gone are the days when customers were motivated solely by cost. The millennial generation is driving a new trend amongst consumers that valued ethical focus over monetary value. There’s evidence to suggest that the millennial generation will happily pay more for the same products or services if they come from a business that has a greater ethical investment and is committed to making their operation greener. If you can demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship, if you can find new ways to make your operation greener and more sustainable, if you can demonstrate that you treat your employees well and have a strong ethical focus in every aspect of your enterprise, you will gain the loyal support of ethically minded consumers.
Underestimate the importance of brand prestige at your peril. Customers want not only to have the best but to be seen having the best, which is why prestige marketing can add value to your brand. Prestige marketing is all about associating your brand with luxury, opulence and the finest craftsmanship. If you take painstaking care about the products you make and the services you offer, there’s no need to downplay this in your marketing, instead you should push it front and centre. It worked for Belgian beer brand Stella Artois whose tagline “reassuringly expensive” helped to position them as a luxury brand.
Customers also want to feel looked after. They want to know that they can rely on you. They want to know that your employees are knowledgeable and expert in their field and that they are well placed to offer them the products and experience that they deserve. Needless to say, the quality control phase of product development is an essential cog in this machine, as is employee training. While a well-made product will sell itself, empowering your employees with knowledge and training will give the customers a sense of reassurance that they’re dealing with professionals who are dedicated to providing a trustworthy and reliable service to them. Take efforts to build trust in your brand and you’ll continue to enjoy the loyalty of your customers.
In the information age, customers want to see that your business is completely transparent. A recent study indicated that 94% of customers said that they would be loyal to a brand that offered complete transparency while 73% of customers said that they would continually use a product that offered complete transparency. Whether it’s giving your customers unrestricted access to how your products are made or using an SOC Auditor to ensure transparency in your financial reporting, transparency is a valuable commodity. If it is found to be lacking, you may find yourself losing customers.
Rewards for their loyalty
In the digital age when customers know that they can afford to be fickle, big brands are grappling more and more with the difficulties of retaining customers. But customer retention isn’t rocket science. Customers want to know that they’re being rewarded for their loyalty and with this in mind it behoves you to come up with innovative and imaginative rewards schemes to make sure that they keep coming back to you. Whether it’s using your own business app to help customers accrue points for each transaction, incentivizing them to bring friends and family to your business or giving them a special treat on your birthday, rewarding customer loyalty is a fun way for you to use your sense of innovation and imagination.
Ultimately, your customers may not know exactly what they want, so you should focus as best you can on building all of the following into your business model. Not only will it boost your appeal, it will make you a better entrepreneur.