The other day I had lunch with an old friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a while (tip: always use your lunch time to grow your network and build your relationships). He asked me to facilitate a strategic-planning workshop for him and his business partner. They are in the IT business and provide an assortment of it services and they knew that in order to grow their business they had to define their focus and wanted to develop a strategic plan to help them do so.
We started our workshop by clarifying the reason they’re in business in the first place (something that should always be more than just making money) and what they stand for. Essentially, we worked on defining their company culture. When it came time to develop their unique selling point, or USP, they presented a comprehensive and detailed list of exactly what they do and how they serve their customers. The next step was debating what the clients really want and need and what should be included and excluded from their offerings. It was then that I posed a question that had both of them stunned for quite some time. “Damn, we missed that one!” they eventually responded.
The question was a simple one: “Have you asked your customers what they want?” Strange though it may seem, it’s a question that so few business owners actually ask while deciding what to offer their clients. One can’t get too carried away with what products and/or services they can offer before they have an understanding of what their customers actually want. After all, who would know better than the customers themselves? And all you have to do is ask.
At the workshop we agreed that during the next three to four weeks my friend and his partner would conduct a customer satisfaction survey using the Net Promoter Score and add the simple question, “What are your greatest IT challenges?” Once that has been done both of them will be in a far better position to understand their USP. Regardless of what product or service you provide for people, the only way you can stay ahead of the curve is to develop a dialogue with your customers – why would you want to guess what you think they want when all you have to do to know for sure is ask?