As B2B marketers we often take a company’s strengths for granted and focus more on identifying and fixing its weaknesses, i.e., the “gaps” vs. customer needs and/or competitor performance. This is certainly understandable, but we may be missing an unique opportunity.
Why not focus on – and build upon – your company’s strengths as a way to win even more with customers. This echoes a theme in the McKinsey publication – Lead At Your Best and is like applying the Appreciative Inquiry concept to marketing.
An Interesting Story
This idea occurred to me when conducting a customer satisfaction study for a leading industrial distributor as part of a larger strategic-planning process. The distributor was well-known for having the broadest product offering in the market, and as we started the study, executives were eager to understand the company’s “gaps” in either perception or performance, and what they needed to improve in order to win more business with their existing customers.
We certainly identified several “gaps”, but what customers really wanted was an even broader product offering, an attribute where the distributor exceeded the performance of its competitors by a large margin. This made no sense on the surface, but when we listened closely to what customers were saying, it did.
Our client was considered the go-to source for a wide range of unusual, but important, parts, components, devices, etc., of which there were many in this industry. While they performed this role wonderfully, customers really needed them to perform even better, since no other supplier was even close. And guess what, price was not an issue.
Takeaways & Limitations
Your company’s strengths are obviously a major reason why it wins in the market place. Thus, getting better at what you do well could certainly enable your company to win even more business from existing customers. It would also strengthen and sharpen your marketing message and brand reputation, which helps attracts prospects, build stronger customer relationships, and again win business. Essentially a virtuous marketing cycle.
However there are limitations to this idea:
- It is driven by existing customers.
- As such it assumes that the market segments represented by existing customers can support your company’s sales and profit objectives.
- What about customers in other segments? These customers also represent an opportunity, and they will likely have a different set of needs than your existing customers.
In a world starved for growth, leveraging existing customer relationships is a logical strategy, but our experience suggests it may be less about what your company doesn’t do than accentuating the positive. What is always critical is that you consistently engage with all your customers, so you know what they really value in your proposition.