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10 Principles or Key Ingredients of a Thoughtful Customer Strategy

In these challenging times, it’s no longer enough to target a few, select purchasers and develop products for that clientele.  The key ingredient that most leaders overlook while serving their clients is a thoughtful and planned Customer Strategy.

A robust Customer Strategy entails speaking the language of the customers, knowing how to anticipate their needs, working closely with them, and coming up with solutions to problems that have not been stated yet.  This necessitates concentrating on developing long-term value and experiences for the customers, required offerings, channels, operating model, and capabilities.

To be effective and to stay ahead of the curve, leaders need to pay attention to the following 10 principles for their Customer Strategy development.  These 10 principles of Customer Strategy are familiar to most people, yet few observe them with the level of skill required in this age of disruption:

  1. Innovate with Speed and Judgment
  2. Recognize Your Customers Well
  3. Link Customer Strategy to the Organizational Identity
  4. Focus on Core Customers
  5. Treat Customers as Assets
  6. Draw on Your Relationships Network
  7. Build an Omnichannel Customer Experience
  8. Develop a Delivery Strategy
  9. Restructure According to Your Customer
  10. Align Culture with the Customer Strategy

Let’s take a deeper look at the first 5 principles.

Innovate with Speed and Judgment

With scientific breakthroughs becoming a norm, efficient companies are persistently piloting innovative ideas to provide creative solutions and first-rate service to their customers.  Digital and mobile technologies are constantly transforming the customer interaction and preferences—making it more important for companies to anticipate and manage technology related risks properly.  Before introducing new offerings, companies need to prudently decide about the innovative technologies that may fascinate their clients, to foster customer loyalty.

When anticipating emerging technologies, the ability to beat competition rests on consistently analyzing the technology arena, deciding which technologies will be of most significance in future, and testing new stuff and examining the outcomes.

Recognize Your Customers Well

Quantitative customer segmentation is the thing of the past now; market leaders know their customers at a granular level.  They gauge customer segmentation and insights as a critical factor in developing their customer strategy and routinely perform advanced customer analysis.

To carry out their customer analysis, business leaders draw from sources including customer behavior and psychographic data collected online and offline, real-time information, and geographic and mapping data.  They then utilize these insights into their internal decision making process, develop business platforms, initiate actionable growth initiatives, or evolve their business models.

Link Customer Strategy to Organizational Identity

Quality value proposition is the hallmark of thriving businesses.  They are able to serve their customers in a way that is unmatched by their rivals.  To maintain their edge over competition, they build distinct capabilities and a diverse portfolio of products and services.  A coherent consolidation of value proposition, capabilities, and offerings dovetail into a firm’s identity—which is evident through its customer experience: the way people interact with it and appreciate it.

However, creating a strong organizational identity isn’t a routine ritual.  Most companies do not really know what they represent.  They tend to mimic their competitors’ moves, play defensive, and tweak their value proposition based on the rivals’ offerings.  They lack a clear focus on what’s unique about them and what they do well—i.e., aligning their organizational identity to their value proposition.

Focus on Core Customers

Organizations that have a strong identity do not compete everywhere.  It is prudent for them to only venture in markets that offer reasonable chances of success—in other words a right to win.  The right to win facilitates in limiting the value proposition that the organization offers, making it easier to specialize in, and serving a select group of customers satisfactorily instead of trying to reach a mass market.

Attempting to succeed in a market where a firm does not have the right to win puts significant time, efforts, and resources at risk.

Treat Customers as Assets

For a customer strategy to be effective, it is imperative to nurture long-term customer relationships and considering customers as assets that have tremendous potential to grow in value.  Leading firms do their best to manage their customer relationships, though it goes against important first steps that they generally take—e.g., calculating the short-term ROI to acquire new customers, or the lifetime cost of a customer relationship at the individual or segment level.

Market leaders evaluate the customers’ purchase journey to gather insights to grow and tailor relationships, invest in meeting the evolving needs of the customers, and consistently add new features based on customers’ insights.

Interested in learning more about these and the other 5 key principles of Customer Strategy?  You can download an editable PowerPoint on 10 Principles of Customer Strategy here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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