Marketing "is the whole business seen...from the customer's point of view," the legendary management consultant Peter Drucker wrote in his The Practice of Management. Drucker also noted that profit is not the goal of business: Profit is a byproduct of organizations' doing a good job of delivering what customers want.

Those insights should resonate with all CMOs who want to have their marketing teams be more customer-focused.

But how do you really become customer-focused?

In theory, it's easy. Simply gather and process customer information, segment, focus on target segments, understand customer perceptions, act on customer information, and know when and how to build customer relationships.

So, why is being customer-focused so hard for many companies?

It takes time and discipline. It sometimes costs a lot of money. And it requires skills to listen carefully to customers. In short, it's hard work.

Is there a downside to being more customer-focused? Not really: Customer-focused companies are more likely to retain and attract customers.

Now, these days many companies believe that Big Data will give them all the customer insights they need. But Big Data merely shows behavior—not motivation, long-term needs, or customers' perception of your company versus your competitors.

So, for now, forget about Big Data and focus on customers. Here are a couple of ways to get started right now:

  1. Run focus groups. Watch what customers (and even noncustomers) do and do not do. Ask the right questions (e.g., seek out customer "tradeoffs"—which benefits customers are willing to trade for other benefits. For example, do they care more about price and are willing to trade off performance to get a good price? This approach prevents participants from getting away with using general words—like "value," "quality," and "performance"—when characterizing your product or service). Have them play with your product and see where they get stuck.

    Regularly talking to real customers, face to face, is the easiest way to become customer-focused.

  2. Conduct surveys. You can use online survey tools (SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, Typeform, etc.) to create simple yet impactful surveys. Survey results provide valuable information about your customers' attitudes toward your brand, product features, pricing, and overall satisfaction levels.

As next steps, focus on the following to become—and stay—a customer-focused company.

1. Improve customer retention. Retaining your loyal customers is critical for maintaining long-term growth and success.

Offering exceptional customer support, providing excellent value, and keeping up with industry trends can all contribute to higher customer retention rates.

In addition, investing in customer education programs, promoting their social media accounts, and hosting events can also boost customer loyalty over time.

2. Analyze customer feedback. Doing so is crucial for identifying areas where your business could improve its offerings.

You can use platforms like Yelp, Glassdoor, and Trustpilot to collect reviews from customers. These reviews contain detailed information about your business's performance, including customer service, quality of work, and overall satisfaction.

By reading through these reviews, you can identify common themes and areas for improvement. For example, if many customers complain about slow delivery times, it might indicate a bottleneck in your logistics operations.

3. Listen to your salespeople. They directly interact with customers. What have they learned?

4. Compel even your R&D people to listen to customers. As a result, they will make better products.

* * *

In short, customer-focused companies listen and look deeper.

Above all, they try to hear more than what they want to hear. They avoid looking for confirmation of their preconceived notions, and they account for their biases.

Customer-focused companies act on customer information:

  • They do not believe that customers are stupid ("What's most important is our technology/product/ideas—not those of customers.")
  • And they do not think that what customers care about can be easily changed.

If their customers want a total "solution," customer-focused companies...

  • Readily agree to put together such a solution to offer it to their customers.
  • And in fact they are willing to compensate people who join together to provide such a total solution.

Customer-focused companies present a unified face to the customer.

And, above all, they know one very important thing:

Customers are not therapists! They don't care about your personal problems. If you can't solve their problem—there are others who can!

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image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is MarketingProfs founder and CEO, positioning consultant, and emeritus professor of marketing. Over the years he has worked with companies such as Texas Instruments, Informix, Vanafi, and EMI Music Distribution to help them position their products defensively in a competitive environment. He is also the founder of Insight4Peace and the former director of Mindful USC.