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Making a consumer into the customer

Goal of business is to make a customer out of consumer. Business environment of today is defined by speed of change that is growing with every year. This is partially supported by technology development, but mainly it is response to development of global, sometimes virtual society that brought different mindset that is challenging existing setup’s much faster than before.

During this process we could see rise in importance of two potential business approaches, that are becoming buzz word in today business, that is design thinking and agile methodology and agile business models. When looking closer to both of them, my main reaction was, that their main shift was that they are based on listening to the consumers (more and in more structured way) and developing their practices out of listening and getting inputs from consumers.

Consumers

Listening to the consumers as a starting point is for sure the right thing to do, times when consumption was built as a consequence of what was available, is over. Companies who don’t approach this issue, collecting structured consumer feedback, in a proper way, will be out of the game (expect the ones that are still operating in highly regulated, niche and proprietary fields). Management, who doesn’t put that on company’s agenda, is not doing the right job.

Questions like: who is our potential market, what does market wants, why they want it, how do they want it (and what will it bring them) and the second set of questions, connected with operational activities tied to information collection from consumers: how do we learn all of the above, how do we collect it, how do we manage it and how do we base our activities on it; are a must for any company in today’s environment.

Monetization

But that is step one and not the most important one in building a successful business. If you want to develop a business out of it, you must learn the value of delivering on consumers need. Monetizing their demands and creating the customer out of a consumer. Empathy is another buzz word, flying around a lot these days, connecting it with employee’s satisfaction, human advantage against AI and machines, customer experience and so on. But the main empathy (if we take empathy at face value and use it as ability to step in other people shoes) ability should be correctly identifying not only need and wishes of consumer, but making the best possible estimation of perceived value they are giving them.

Defining moments

With so much money flowing around, sometimes business world looks more like chasing a lottery ticket than sound investment activities and being a vehicle of continuous development of human society, where needs are growing on one side and ability to fulfill them is growing on the other side. And that situation sometimes takes an edge out of this transition from identifying a need to monetize it. Creating new business models that build a user base first and then moving into either subscription or some other (usually add-based) model, have this defining moment. Companies moving from awareness, research, testing phase of consumer journey to transaction part of it, have this defining moment. Companies developing new products, have this PMF (product market fit) moment. Every pipeline cleaning activity has this moment.

To be better at those, make sure that you as a management set-up proper structure to collect, manage and use consumer feedback in consistent, constant and structured way, but don’t forget to upgrade that system with activities to test monetization capacities of everything you are planning to introduce. Target customers not consumers. Make sure your employees empathy includes ability to translate consumer needs to customer commitments.

As a management, you can ask yourself “a vacation questions”:

  • do I have in place a structured system of consumer information collection,
  • do we as a company possess abilities to translate that into money machine
  • and if yes, how do we check if it is working.
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Tomas Lah & J.B. Wood: Technology-as-a-Service Playbook
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Gerald C. Kane, Nguyen Phillips, Jonathan R. Copulsky and Garth R. Andrus: The Technology Fallacy; How people are the real key to digital transformation
Tom Goodwin: Digital Darwinism; Survival of the fittest in the age of business disruption

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