Have you ever implemented an improvement project at your organization that turned out to be ill-imagined, too costly or simply off the mark? Unfortunately, and to their embarrassment, many companies have. As the economy becomes more uncertain, many organizations (including your competitors) will be looking for ways to shore up lost sales, market share, and profits.
Do you want to stop wasting time and valuable resources, fixing the wrong business issues? Do you want to dedicate the bulk of your resources to areas for improvement that will drive increased sales and profitability while decreasing cost and eliminating time wasting? Do you want to stop recreating a wheel that you never needed in the first place? Simply put, do you want to start fixing the right stuff?
Below, I have detailed for you a simple formula for market domination through a deeper understanding of your customers and marketplace. The formula starts with a simple survey and takes you to having the informed knowledge of what needs to be changed, adjusted, eliminated, built, and challenged in your organization. You must have an extreme understanding of your customer wants, desires, and needs in order to dominate your market in lean times as well as in good times. Let’s get started.
- Ask your people. Conduct an informal survey among your organization. If you are a small to mid-sized organization, this might be done in-person or over the telephone. For a larger organization an intranet email or hard copy survey generally works best. In this informal survey, two questions, basic and open-ended, are asked. First, you ask for three things the employee believes your organization’s customers would offer as your organizations strength or what the customers like best about the company. Next is three things, your employee believes that your customers dislike about your company or wish your organization would improve.
- Build a formal survey. Based on the information you received from your staff and management, build a survey of about 15 questions that will cover the key items mentioned. Start your survey with the first two questions somewhat benign. This will allow the respondent to have the necessary comfort zone as they begin. Sprinkle your most important questions throughout the survey and sandwich them between lesser important questions. The best way to organize your answer request is on a one to five scale, agreeing or disagreeing with the statement. For example, XYX Company delivers on time. The respondents will, within a range, agree or disagree with the statement.
- Survey your people. You will want to have your organization complete the survey first. This is because you want their perception of what your customers have to say before they hear what the customers actually said.
- Survey your customers. Use the same survey, the same method for grading, and this step will be golden. My recommendation for the most effective method of conducting this step is to hire an outside organization to make the telephone calls for you. Take the high road and telephone query your customers rather than employ the cold and impersonal method of an email or a snail mail survey. A competent telephone researcher will be able to get your customers to relax, as they ask the questions on the survey. Your customers in return will give their true beliefs and feelings. This is the information you truly need. If you try to have one of your staff persons do this, the respondents will not open up as freely and your results will naturally be flawed. For most small to mid-sized organizations, actual survey results from about 50 of your customers should be adequate; larger organizations will want a larger sampling.
- Study your survey. The survey now becomes an important tool for helping your organization to improve its performance. The key here is to study the similarities and dis-similarities of responses. You will want to know where the people in your organization were correct in knowing what your customers have to say about your organization. And even more important; knowing where your employees beliefs were erroneous. You cannot fix what you do not know. Be open to learning here. Just because you really believed your customers would say one thing, but said something else; do not fall into the trap of stating, the survey is wrong! The survey is not wrong, but rather your perception of reality.
- Develop a priority list. Now that you have a much more accurate idea as to your customers’ perception (good and bad) of you, you can now make informed decisions. No organization can effect too much change, too fast. Encourage your executive team to have an emotional ownership (which I believe is far better than buy-in) in developing the priority list for improvement and policy change. You do this by allowing them to participate in the process of developing the list. The benefit to your organization is that they will move mountains to make a difference in this total effort toward improvement. It is this effort you need for market domination.
- Implement the changes. In order to dominate your market, you must own the hearts and minds of that market. You must position your organization in your customers’ hearts and minds as being THE supplier of choice, regardless of your location in your industry’s supply chain. As the people in your organization move away from their complacency toward excellence, the perception of your excellence in of the marketplace grows. Implement your changes and improvements in a manner that allows small successes early. From these earlier, sometimes considered insignificant successes, come the stepping stones and later the foundation for your movement toward excellence and market domination. Simply put, fix the right stuff—before it’s too late. You’ll own your customers, for as long as you continue fixing the right stuff—as soon as you can.
As you decide on using the above formula to assist your organization in moving toward market domination, there are variations that can be employed. The above method is structured to help you develop a market domination strategic plan for your organization based on knowledge rather than disinformation. Variations of the above survey methodology include comparing the knowledge of customer perception among the several silos within your organization for better interdepartmental cooperation. Additionally, market perception variations can be explored based on geography, customer size, customer buying capability (percentage you get of their procurement dollars), and potential customers or prospects.
From the above survey, the most obvious purposes might be for sales increases and improved customer service; however, you might also consider using the survey to determine new products or services for development, possible strategic alliances to develop, and organizational productivity.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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