I went for one of my walks-in-the-dark last night. Sometimes I bring a glass of wine in a tumbler cup (my brother and I call it the ‘booze cruise’) and walk on the trail near me with a flashlight. It’s a nice end to the day and last night the stars were bright.
I just gave birth to competitive intelligence report for a client that we do quarterly for his Board of Directors. In this report we track over 25 companies who serve SMBs (small and medium sized businesses). I realized while working on the report how companies, in their desire to onboard, cross-sell and create a loyal base too often forget what their customer need is today. Take Constant Contact for example; they lead the pack for making email marketing easy for small businesses. They started adding marketing services, apps, social media marketing campaigns, website assistance, and transitioned into selling a marketing platform. What happened? Customers got confused. Their first target market is SMBs who just need an email marketing solution. Constant Contact took their easy, straightforward entry ramp (emailing customers in a more professional way) to the highway (the highway being a marketing platform) confusing by adding construction. It’s like giving a your baby asparagus, broccoli and kale because “I know it’s good for you. Research proves it!” Yes, it is good for your baby someday, but let’s start with mashed up squash that he can digest first.
Intuit is another example recently in the news. They are selling Demandforce, Quickbase and Quicken and re-strategizing on owning the U.S. market for taxes. In the last year they pushed customers to transition to the cloud before customers were ready, lost focus, caused confusion and backlash, and now are focusing on their core competency: taxes.
The moral of the story here is to focus on your customer need. I was at conference in Chicago earlier this month and one of the speakers talked about the same thing - you can’t push or pull your customers to you regardless of what you think they need. You need to stand next to them, listen to them, then hold the flashlight out front and guide the way.