Your Customer & Your Market
Let’s be clear about one thing: you sell to customers and not a market. Knowing "market share" is a useful metric in determining the relative effectiveness of a sales organization or product. It provides a snap-shot of where a vendor stands in comparison to competitors with regards to the universe of a defined range of products or services sold into that marketplace. Market share, simply put, a measurement of past performance. It can be used as a benchmark for the determination of future successes, but it cannot provide reliable input to future needs or trends. While we often talk about what the “market” demands, no such “market” anywhere ever wrote out a check for anything. We all must understand that a "market" is the composite of a group or class of customers having a common description of what they do and a common need for a product/service or type of product/service that helps them do it.
You can’t ask the market what your market position with it is, but you can ask the individual companies comprising the market what your position is with them. Some of this market assessment can be quantitative; that is, individual quantitative responses which can be statistically tabulated into some symbolic mathematical distribution of how the market sees you; X percent said this, Y percent said that, for example. This type of evaluation does have its place when you’re dealing with very large “markets” where “means” (averages) and sigma distributions can provide both center shot and rim shot targets, particularly for “commodity” type products. On the “average,” the market wants . . . But in this scenario, what does this tell you about what your individual prospects and customer will want, and will buy, in the future, from you? In smaller markets, what would the few leading prospects . . . and your key customers. . . like to see from you? What position do you occupy in the minds of the users? The need for this type of information – not to be confused with data – is even more critical if you’re selling, or plan to sell, a non-commodity product/service, perhaps even a custom or semi-tailored product.
A macro analysis of trends in your customers’ industry and . . . if they’re not the ultimate end user . . . of trends in their customers’ business, can yield valuable insight. At the least this can help keep you from being whipsawed by “surprises” you should have seen coming. However, “micro analysis” keeps your doors open and tells you where you need to be in the customers’ minds.
Certainly, macro assessments can, and should, be made from micro-analyses, but in most cases your customers define the market they’re in, and what they will buy from you, or won’t, customer-by-customer. Balancing out this need for, and the value of, both macro and micro evaluation is a challenging issue. The best place to start is with your prospect or customer – the folks who may eventually sign the checks or who are already doing so.
Your Customer is Your Future
Solution Development or Customer Development – which of these has the best potential for providing real growth leverage for your company? Selling what you have available today falls to the bottom line on this year’s income statement but does not guarantee future success.
Customer satisfaction measurements can determine the legitimacy and credibility of your current product or service offering. Variable components of your quality, post sales service, responsiveness, communications, ease of doing business, and comparison of these with your competition can be qualitatively and quantitatively determined through a variety of means, including satisfaction surveys.
A survey which focuses on your current performance can be a powerful tool for identifying where you stand in your customers’ opinions. It facilitates tactical course corrections or confirms that you are on the right track. Your future, by definition,...