Customers First: The Voice of Marketing in Engineering Companies

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March 24: Customers First, an Excerpt from Chapter Eight: A Cow’s Eye View, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book
Dear Linda, I just signed onto a technology company who is trying to move from its technical roots to more of a sales and marketing focused organization. I’m making progress but it’s not a smooth ride. Any thoughts on how to get the company more customer-focused?
She-Who-Puts-Customers-First
Dear She, I feel your pain. This scenario is unfortunately common in Silicon Valley when so many founders and leaders think that it’s about the technology and start and lead technology-focused companies. There’s nothing wrong with technology. It’s the enabler, it’s the reason why customers are buying. But it’s not the reason why your company is staying in business. Here are some thoughts on how to get your company more customer focused.
1. Define what you and others in your group mean by ‘customers’ and the ideal product or service for the ideal customer. Be in alignment on this before reaching out to customers.
2. Getting buy-in at the management level is not getting buy-in at the implementation level. So figure out which groups you need to change, who is in the group, and what’s in it for them to make this change. Then make the case for the change.
3. The reverse is also the case. If the management team signs you on to forge this change, and yet doesn’t back you up with the policies and initiatives and backing to make it happen, then it’s a difficult task indeed.
4. The best way to show that customers come first is to prove that addressing their needs will bring more business and more momentum to your business. Whether it’s providing a new feature or providing better tools, support and service, getting things right for the customer and enlisting their help in better serving more customers will soon generate measurable results for your company, ones that leaders throughout the organization will recognize and support.
5. Focus on making a happy customer, and leveraging them to make more happy customers through communication, through referrals, through strategic/product changes.
6. If you can’t find a happy customer or make a happy customer, there may be a deeper issue. Find out from unhappy customers and others what that might be and see if it is fixable and if so how.
7. If some customers are happy and some are not, figure out why and what you can do to better serve more customers in your sweet spot.
8. Positive momentum builds more positive momentum, so focus on building energy in that positive direction.
9. Distractions and failures are part of the path, and can be folded into the overall solution as a win, if it redirects and corrects and keeps moving forward.
10. A cultural shift involves changes at all levels, in all departments and will not happen overnight. Find the early adopters in each department who can help spread the change and educate and empower them and enlist others to follow them.
Best of luck – you are on the right, albeit difficult path to a sustainable business!
Linda

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