IRRESISTIBLE BUSINESS: Strategic Foundation
Let Everyone Build for Every Customer
When I took the job at the small publisher, it had been losing over 10% in revenues ($millions) every year for the past three years. It was a dream job, I would get to conceive and drive the strategy that would turn the company around and build a customer base of fiercely loyal fans. For them, it was a moment of truth, the company had recently downsized by more than 50%. For me, it was an “Ok, big shot moment. Let’s see what you’ve learned from all that experience.”
I read all of the current product. Over the years, every product had somehow come to be defined by the same 5 buzz words and were for the same customer group — defined as all teachers inside and outside the classroom. I realigned and differentiated it so that teachers could choose the product that best suited their classroom situation.
Then I chose the first new product we would publish and it raised some alerts. The 20 manuscripts I had selected were from an Australian publisher. They were written at a 7-year-old reading level, but were far too racy for 7-year-olds in American schools.
The Founder of the company said, “These books are … um … a little irreverent.”
The President of the company said, “Yes, I’d describe them as irreverent too.”
I said, “And that’s exactly why we’re going to publish them.”
They said things like
- Parents of second-grade kids would go ballastic if 7-year-old brought these home.
- Second-grade kids will never understand these.
- Second-grade teachers will never buy these.
- States will never fund these.
I replied something like
Every publisher is building books for every kid. And they’re not intimately close to any of them.
We’re going to publish these books for the 13-year-old boys reading at a 7-year-old level.
And so Second-Chance Reading was born.
5 Solid Ways a Key-Customer Strategy Grows a Business Faster
The situation was clear. The investors were unhappy at the downward moving growth curve. A turnaround was imperative for survival. We needed to grow the business quickly and meaningfully. The strategy was simple. Get clearly-defined product to market that would attract a fiercely loyal key customer group.
By identifying teachers of severely vulnerable students — 13-year-old boys reading seriously below level — as a key customer group, we were taking advantage of these 3 solid ways to grow a company faster, easier, and more meaningfully.
- Focus is attractive: You can build a website and an offer that shows you know your key customer deeply. If you serve everyone, you serve no one well. I want a company that wants me as a customers. When I walk into a hotel or a restaurant or visit a website, I know immediately if it was designed with people like me mind. Trying to build a location or a website that appeals to everyone flattens the attraction. Teachers, gamers, and CEOs don’t share expectations or sensitivities. Focusing clearly on the key group you will serve means that when they arrive they’ll see immediately that you “get” them intimately.
- Intimacy leads to expertise: You get to know the problems. A teacher, a farmer, and a CEO have problems in common. However, those problems play out on different fields with different rules. When you focus on a clear key customer group, such as all teachers of 7th graders who read below level, you see the same problems across similar situations. You get to know the issues and what triggers them deeply. You develop strategies that serve the customer more meaningfully because you’re intimate with their needs, desires, and restrictions.
- A clarified group: Your impact is spread more quickly. If you work with one teacher, one farmer, and one CEO, your impact is diluted by the simple fact that teachers, gamers, and CEOs rarely talk business to each other. Three teachers of 7th-grade students who read below level are much more relational. They’re much more likely to trade techniques, offer support, and share success stories. They’ll tell their friends about you.
- Simple shareability: You are easier to share. Whether it’s a networking room at the Four Seasons in NYC or conversation on Twitter, a key customer strategy keeps you top of mind, much like a key word keeps you top of Google. If you are well-known for one thing, much like Oprah is known for being a talk show host, the minute someone mentions that one thing in conversation, I think of you and your product or service.
- Thoughtful extendability: You can build out infrastructure and customer base simultaneously. Having a key customer focus grounds a strategy that allows you to build a solid foundation. From that foundation, you can move out to people who know the first key customers — their friends, partners, vendors and other relations. The marketing effort it takes to extend to these new groups — for example: 8th grade teachers of students reading below level, parents of 7th grade students reading below level, teachers of 7th and 8th grade students who need reading practice — is less costly and less risk than developing a fully-new market and your reputation precedes you. Your business can project when to enter the market and what the return will be on investment.
Whether your business is a corporation or a sole proprietorship, a key customer strategy keeps the most loyal of your fans close, limits risk, and raises your visibility to grow your business faster, easier, and more meaningfully than any simple campaign might.
Campaigns make sales.
Relationships build businesses.
Deep relationships are irresistible.
What are you doing to build a stronger key customer strategy for your business?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!