What blindsides many mainstream businesses is that market changes can be slow – and therefore go by unnoticed.
Change is happening every single day. The challenge is being tuned into your markets well enough to discern these changes, and then contributing to shaping favorable change.
Product vs Customer Driven Markets
In traditional product-driven markets the business leads change. Examples of these include consumer products that are mass produced and marketed, such as laundry detergents, toothpaste, and razor blades.
It’s safe to say that in many industries we’ve reached the point of incremental gains, thereby making the products commodities, and price a factor in purchase decisions.
In other words, the consumers are pretty much happy with what they’ve got, so there isn’t much of a need to innovate. To paraphrase Mick Jagger (Satisfaction) – How white can your shirts be?
In community-driven markets customers lead changes. Community-driven markets are those in which information makes a difference in buying decisions. This includes most service industries. If this doesn’t describe your industry, is it possible to introduce a service component that differentiates your product?
Content Marketing Leads Customers
Customer preferences are playing out every day on the social networks, and leading businesses are using a variety of monitoring tools to take full advantage of this real-time data. Small businesses should at the very least be using Google Alerts to monitor the social commentary related to their business and the communities it serves.
It is essential to recognize that any involvement by the business can contribute to the available information, as well as its sharing. This is the role of content marketing – educating your communities to create better informed buyers.
Your business should also be using your social channels to get honest feed back from customers.
One of the best methods for discerning customer expectations is asking good questions and noticing patterns. People will all eventually speak the truth when given the opportunity to speak freely – and without risk.
One example is, “Do you think others would say we provide good value?” How they personally feel will then follow, and that will give your business clues about the changes they are expecting.
Other good questions are the ones that nobody else is asking them. Such as: “Would you pay more for a better product?” A favorable reply may suggest your quality is not where it needs to be, and that your customer is willing to pay more for what they really want.
When your business shows an interest in its customers – that makes the business more interesting to them. So, engaging more with them with your social channels is essential for retaining your best customers.
Of course, a well-designed content marketing strategy feeds that engagement, and thereby leads the customers that are leading the change.
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Jeff is also the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – Published by Wiley, April 8, 2013