Would Steve Jobs have success with today’s consumers? Maybe. Or maybe not.
Among all his quotes on sales, marketing, and development, one stands out as potentially problematic: ‘Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.’ There’s no doubt that Jobs’ approach to pushing products worked. However, today’s buyers may prefer having more control over the items they purchase, as well as how they get them.
For instance, 70% of B2B customers conduct extensive research before starting a formal sales process according to a CSO Insights report. Among B2C interactions, the percentage of people who engage in due diligence before a purchase jumps to 85%. This means customers aren’t waiting around to be told what to do. They’re taking control—and businesses may want to lean into this trend.
Let’s face it: Any sized company can gather huge amounts of data and feedback from buyers in nearly real time. Consequently, companies don’t have to wait until the end of a marketing campaign to make changes. Instead, marketers and sellers can make real-time pivots based on incoming sentiments and buying shifts.
It’s not hard to see the benefits of using incoming data to shape customer engagement strategies, like meeting needs. Just think about the 2020 pandemic, as an example. People-centric organizations were able to make fast, relevant changes in the consumer experience and meet people’s needs. As a result, they positioned themselves to stay afloat and even thrive amidst a constantly changing marketplace.
Below are more reasons it might be time for forward-thinking companies to let customers ‘take the wheel’ in 2022.
1. You can identify undeveloped markets.
It can be tough for corporate team members to pinpoint potential markets without listening to their current and potential buyers. Often, buyers’ feedback encourages internal marketing teams to add products and services to their lineups. By staying in tune with people’s needs, businesses can offer serious value and stay ahead of competitors.
Consider the case of Nurx. The company began as an unconventional place to purchase birth control proactively, inexpensively, and discreetly online. Since its founding, Nurx has expanded based directly on the feedback and needs of patients. Recently, Nurx’s medical team added rosacea diagnosis and products after hearing about the ‘dermatology deserts’ facing many patients.
True, it can be challenging to stay open-minded to what you’ll offer next. Nonetheless, staying open and aware of ‘word on the street’ trends can provide major opportunities.
2. You can stop fearing uncertainty.
As 2020 unfolded, businesses realized that they couldn’t be sure of anything in life. Despite tons of planning, they needed to embrace flexibility. In fact, flexibility can be freeing because it takes away the worries that a plan might go awry.
Letting customers pilot your ship requires baking uncertainty into your marketing processes. To be sure, a certain amount of uncertainty will come with the territory. But it doesn’t have to be terrifying. It can be stimulating, and even foster increasing levels of innovation.
As MileZero founder Robyn Bolton notes, uncertainty tends to spark imagination, if it’s not tamped down. And it doesn’t always require that you revamp your entire business to serve customers. As she explains, businesses often discover that they can ‘use existing capabilities to produce entirely new products’ when they accept uncertainty.
3. You can strengthen your relationship with buyers.
Historically, corporate relationships with buyers have been treated with a transactional touch. That is, they’ve been seen from a supply-demand type of lens. Yet this relationship is changing, especially amid the rise of social media.
Right now, customers are watching brands closely to see what they do. They’re also holding organizations accountable to living up to their mission and vision statements. This type of scrutiny was unknown in an era without instantaneous global feedback. Today, it can provide wonderful avenues toward companies connecting on deeper levels with consumers.
By giving customers more control over specific aspects of your offerings, such as ways to buy, you can deepen your buyer-selling trust. The stronger your bonds become, the less effort you’ll have to make to turn buyers into advocates. You might even discover that your customers reward you with a steady stream of referrals.
Your team can’t know it all, particularly in a world where everything can change overnight. Instead, rely on your customers to help you understand your next moves.