How to become customer oriented in your business?

You can summarize most business strategy advice, most business development guidelines; entrepreneurship tips and marketing and sales recommendations in this one sentence: get closer to your customer. By focusing your business outwards, towards the customer, instead of inwards, towards your operations, a small miracle happens: you start becoming a better business.

Yet, despite the simplicity and undisputed soundness of this advice, it is not something that comes naturally to a company, no matter how big or small. All companies, when left alone, drift away from the customer. Nokia, Blockbuster, Encyclopedia Britannica, Kodak, BlackBerry are all examples. When left unchecked, companies become self-centered and a sense of arrogance creeps in that says “we don’t need to listen to the customer anymore because we know better”.  The only antidote is to eat a good dose of humble pie in the form of direct, unfiltered customer feedback.

In our dealings with entrepreneurs arrogance is often a problem. Companies refuse to acknowledge that the customer is right and that they are probably wrong. In fact, many of them simply don’t listen to their customers. They forge ahead trying to sell the same thing, to the same people, without success and meaningful change. This is where marketing starts to add strategic value to a business.

The role of the marketer, or marketing department, is first and foremost not to “do your social media” or “build your website” or “write your brochure” – all tactical activities, but to help you research your market and gain first hand customer feedback. Marketing communications is only the last step in developing a successful marketing campaign. It starts with knowing your customer – or prospective customer – much better.

Arrogance is a problem in most personal relationships. Turns out it also hurts the most critical relationship a business has – the one relationship that has a direct impact on the income statement: the relationship with the customer.

So: How to become customer oriented in your business? The answer is by treating the customer as king, and you, the business owner, unfortunately don’t know best how to grow your business. The customer does. When last have you gone to listen – not sell –  to them? Is your business customer-focused, or ego driven?