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A factor associated with success is an understanding of customer needs.
A factor associated with success is an understanding of customer needs.

Entrepreneurship 101 for leaders and those who want to be

Business data and intelligence are vital in any organisation. MICHAEL HINSHAW explains the mechanics in leveraging customer-centric actions to better manage your business.

Most businesses intuitively understand the need to connect their products and services to the needs of the market. Failing to determine a specific need and align your offerings to meet it leaves you with little chance of success.

“Early into venture creation, the pursuit of product-market fit is driven by identifying and closing the gap between customer issues and proposed solutions."

Early into venture creation, the pursuit of product-market fit is driven by identifying and closing the gap between customer issues and proposed solutions.

As a mentor and teacher, I share my view that customer-driven evidence must lead to conclusions without letting biases get in the way of what the market actually needs.

My role as a mentor is mirrored in my job as a customer experience strategist. I help small businesses understand what customers need and act based on what is learned, while building the institutional muscles to do so.

Unfortunately, many retailers have difficulty dealing with customer perspective. They are hindered by tradition and habit - established processes, systems, rules, and reward structures.

Whether you’re establishing a business or improving customer experience, the most common factor associated with success is an understanding of customer needs and providing them in ways that are relevant and unique.
 

Customer development manifesto

Bob Dorf and Steve Blank, authors of The Startup Owner’s Manual, a guide to building a great business, created a list of 17 customer development principles but I’ve narrowed it down to eight that are equally relevant to any established organisation striving to connect with their customers regardless of size, industry, location, or product.

#1. Get outside

There are no facts inside your building, so get outside! You don’t know what customers think without interacting with them. Using one-on-one interviews, qualitative focus groups and formal data-gathering such as surveys and behavioural analytics, there’s no substitute for looking at your business from the customer’s perspective.

#2. Finding the heart

Whether you’re improving existing systems and processes or designing products, services, or experiences, the ability to gather, analyse, integrate, and act on customer input is crucial in changing expectations. Adopting an iterative design, deploy, and assess approach to experience improvement is at the heart of the most customer-centric businesses.

#3. Insight-driven pivots

“What worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. Consequently, you must have the ability to shift focus or direction based on insights from your customers and data."

What worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. Consequently, you must have the ability to shift focus or direction based on insights from your customers and data. Continually identify pain points and experience gaps, then prioritise their improvement based on customer needs and your business objectives.

#4. Validate hypothesis with experiments

Always aim to turn your informed guesses — another definition for hypothesis — into facts by testing improvements with the customers who actually use or interact with them. In the context of customer experience, think of your efforts as ‘pass/ fail’ experiments that provide insights to learn from and take action on.

#5. Failure is an integral part

As noted in Mark Coopersmith and John Danner’s book The Other “F” Word, failure can be a game-changing resource — provided you learn from it. It’s about finding what works and what doesn’t, based on what the data and outcomes reveal. And of course, set yourself up to fail small, since tests and iterative improvements lead to big gains over time.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Hinshaw

Contributor • McorpCX


Michael Hinshaw is president of McorpCX, which focuses on customer experience management. Learn more: mcorpcx.com

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