VBO & Customer Intimacy

Posted on Posted in B2C, Cust Intimacy, Mark, Retail, Technology

Lions and tigers and millennials. Oh, boy!  Which is more scary?  Well, the consensus seems to be millennials as they become the largest age based demographic.  But, why the reaction?  Isn’t this the same as any other market dynamic an agile business must address?  It is to a VBO business that has a high level of customer intimacy with it’s B2B and B2C end users

In today’s world of big data, if you’re working for Behemoth, Inc., customer intimacy programs have a different meaning as the revolve around, well, big data.  But smaller companies generally don’t have the time and can’t afford the vendors who can help them with acquiring and then breaking down the data.  That’s why the definition of customer intimacy for smaller companies should be all about becoming an important value based cog to your customers business.

You should be so close to your customers that you can proactively tailor ongoing value solutions, product, service and relationships to that grow customer’s share .  What’s more, with the right B2B customer relationships, you can have access to consumer data.  It goes hand in hand with a tight partnership. 

The bottom line is that you need to think like a marketer and that means using data, where easily available, to address macro (market) and micro (customer and consumer) issues.  Strategic, Tactical and Implementation issues are all dependent upon profiles that segment customers. This is particularly important today with the blurring of channels.    Customer intimacy isn’t just about the product, but how, why, what and when they buy.

Now, lets get back to ‘Millennials”.  We have macro trends labeled by ‘big buckets’ (yea, Millennials is one of them!) that have little basis to a business close to their customers or target audience.  When facing market, customer or consumer shifts, the question you should be asking relates to the impact of specific attributes of each segment.  My question to entrepreneurs who are concerned about millennials is this – are you concerned about the millennials or technology?

Is that a curveball? Well, no.  Let’s get a bit deeper.  What is a key facilitator for research and online purchases? How about smartphones?  Mobility is driven by technology – not the age of the user.  The overwhelming trend is mobile.  Baby Boomers to millennials all research and buy online via smartphones.   A more meaningful question begins with the technology and ends with how each demographic uses that technology. 

But, is all else equal?  Of course, not – that’s why you have to profile your customer.  For example, in general terms, millennials are big on instant gratification and demand immediate response or delivery.  Baby Boomers are much more patient and may still walk into a retail store.  Families are huddling up by using Facebook, while Instagram is the choice of younger singles.  So, do you understand how your target customer or consumer uses technology for your product or service?  To access information and buy your product?

Let get back to the initial question…is the primary factor that impacts your business millennials or smartphones?   According to Neilson, smartphones also have a 96% penetration with GenX.   Baby Boomers also have high penetration for smartphones.  In this example, age has little relevance.  if you haven’t kept up with technology, your problem becomes technology because you’re not providing value to the process.

Let’s talk real life for a moment and take this a step further.  When I first started my business, I had problems gaining traction with gym and wholesale prospects, I soon realized that the only way to get their attention was to own my product categories at the consumer level. The brand had to drive the consumer- a pull through marketing strategy.  

As I grew the business, I would segment customer profiles so sharp that I could contact the gyms where ‘my’ consumers trained.  The message was clear – we want your business and have an opportunity that has great benefits to your gym beyond equipment revenue.  The flip side, of course, was the implication that we would continue to impact their gear sales through the consumer if they were not willing to work with my company. 

Profile segmentation also enabled us to balance the message for mainstream advertising to attract young adults while still being acceptable to the parents.  But, email and social media campaigns (read technology) were different.  I could slice our profiles very thin and get tight with target segments.  I tailored ‘edge’ per segment.

This is how VBO Marketing works for the entrepreneur. I never had to burn a business plan as it evolved with each segment update.  I call this ‘building the plane in midflight’.  The company was always close to the end user and even closer to supporting gyms as we drove significant volume on the B2B side.  This process enabled us to adjust strategic and tactical plans and think longer term about new product development, services and introductions.

The greatest benefit was that I converted the B2B value perception for our products.  We knew the consumer better than anyone else, our products were innovative and unique and we differentiated ourselves further by promoting those who supported our brand.  We didn’t own our dealers, but we created relationships that clearly were in their best interest to work closely with us.  These relationships had value beyond the simple purchase of a widgets.

By embracing intimacy and making it part of our company culture, I established an agile business that created a new, innovative product segment and challenged Behemoth, Inc. for 15 years.  Our efforts in driving consumer and customer intimacy, the resulting relationships, and how we used that information were a big part of why our wholesalers and dealers were committed to working with my company.

My book, Marketing Through Value Based Outcomes, drives home these issues.  Our process and pyramid framework creates a foundation that drives focus and precision.  If you’ve read the book, we’d love to hear how you’ve used our process to drive customer intimacy.  Comment here or email mark_at_valuebasedoutcomes.com.

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