The topic for my blog entry—Business—is quite broad, and the word itself has different meanings to different people. I went to business school, worked 34 years in the marketing communications business, spent 27 of those years as the president of a business, and 24-and-counting years as a business owner. Accordingly, I know a little about accounting, cash flow and risk management; I’ve dealt with human resources, legal and bank fraud issues; and I’ve made some 2500 different filings for federal and state income, federal and state corporate, social security, Medicare, FUTA, SUTA, sales and property taxes. I have a lot of business experience.
But here’s the thing; if someone were to ask me if I felt business is complicated, I’d be hard-pressed to answer “yes.” I believe that at its core business is quite simple, as there is really only one thing a company needs to do to be successful; keep its customers satisfied. All the other issues—finance, taxes, compliance, etc.—are really little more than obstacles. To ensure its success, a business needs to have the needs and expectations of its customers be its primary focus.
Naturally, the next question then must be “How do I assure customer satisfaction?”, and I have a four-part answer.
1) Identify who your ideal customers are. Identifying the right customers is the critical first step; no one is going to buy a better mousetrap unless they have a mouse problem, and a high-rise apartment dweller is an unlikely candidate to buy your lawn mower.
2) Get to know what is important to them now. Knowing what is important to a customer is critical. For instance, budget-conscious individuals are typically not the best prospects for high-end products—that is unless they can be convinced that the up-front cost of the high-end product will lower their overall expenses.
3) Anticipate what will be important to them in the future. Even if able to convince its pernicious prospects to buy their products today, the long-term success of most companies is predicated on their abilities to satisfy their customers again and again. Given the rapidity of change in today’s world, anticipating future customer needs is a requirement. However, while accurate anticipation is a requirement, it is not a guarantee; just because one knows what a prospect seeks doesn’t mean they know it better than the competition does. The key is to make it so the prospect believes choosing you is their best choice.
4) Make them feel that your offerings are a better choice than the alternatives. What is the simplest way to get prospects to believe what you want them to believe? Make it real. The easiest way to convince someone that you can save them money is to save them money. There is nothing sinister about trying to convince people; we all do it every day in all parts of our lives. Deception, however, is sinister, and actions speak louder than words. A company that delivers less than it promises will not only fail to solve its prospects’ current needs, it will also eliminate itself from consideration to solve future needs, thus effectively eliminating itself from future success.
I recognize that I have not made any great revelations above or magnanimously shared any significant pearls of wisdom, but those were not my intentions. My goal was to illustrate that I believe business is really not all that complicated. There are four key points to always remember – Know your market; satisfy their present needs; anticipate their future needs and always deliver value. That is the approach we’ve taken over the last 24+ years, and the way I expect we’ll approach our business over the next 24.