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Analyzing the customer

Customer Crowd

Who is our customer?

A basic question. As business success increasingly hinges on becoming customer driven (synonymous with market driven), the answer is essential to achieving our goals.

Those voluminous sales reports from MIS paint a detailed picture of who buys. Rich with numbers, customer classes, year-to-date, last year-to-date, products purchased, rankings. If this seems all too easy, perhaps there's more behind this Rorschach of dollar signs and decimal points than appears at first glance.

Next to those figures are names, company names, presumably our customers. But behind those company names are people. The decision makers. The users of our products and services. Companies don't make buying decisions, people do. Distributors don't use our products, their customers do. What's important to the distributor's buying decision may not be important to the end user. What's important to the architect may not be important to the hospital administrator. What's important to the purchasing manager may not be as important to the production supervisor.

The term "customer" is a collective noun. It's complex, composed of many parts. It has multiple personalities with multiple needs to be satisfied by our products and services. Our job as marketing and business psychiatrist is not to "cure," but to diagnose and develop strategies, products, services, and programs to deal with these multiple personalities.

Our customer's multiple personalities include the type of business and distribution channels: distributor—dealer—architect/consultant, converter—end user. They include job functions: purchasing, general management, engineering, manufacturing, design and development. They include all the individuals in each of these businesses and in each of these job functions who impact the decision to purchase and use our products and services. And, they include different needs to be met by our products and services: pricing, packaging, output, ease of formulation, color consistency, frequency of repair, increased productivity.

Our diagnosis begins by identifying all these multiple personalities and then listening to all of them to find out what makes each of them tick. We rank which personalities and which needs are truly important to our business success.

Armed with a thorough and correct diagnosis, we can develop new products and features that meet the needs of our total customer, not just one of its personalities. We can better establish pricing and distribution channels. We can target our promotional efforts to key personalities and key needs. We make our sales calls more effective by contacting all the key influences.

Our analysis and diagnosis take us beyond that periodic sales report. They guide us along that path of customer understanding that produces winning partnerships and profitable and long-lasting business success.

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