Most of our companies have customers from many parts of the world (or our customer have customers). In today’s economy that is a very important diversification. According to the International Monetary Fund, forecasted growth in Gross Domestic Product for 2010 and 2011 is expected to continue to improve nicely over the declines of 2008 and 2009.
The IMF expects most of that growth to come from emerging and developing markets, including the so-called BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China. In fact, the growth for the U.S. and the European region is expected to be 1.5% and 0.3%, respectively. Contrast that with a healthy 6.4% for India and a whopping 9.0% for China.
Companies that succeed in capturing the most growth in the coming years will need to have a solid approach toward emerging and advanced countries around the world. That provides some very real challenges for companies, starting with trying to get a handle on differences in markets and customers on those markets.
An easy trap to fall into is thinking of customers as a homogenous, impersonal group. Customer-focused companies go the extra mile to understand their customers and the differences in those customers. Customer from different cultures might want or need different solutions, they might judge you differently, they might have ready access to different competitors.
Customer-focused companies understand all their customers and design products, services and solutions to respond to various needs. They also target customers whose needs are consistent with their most valuable offerings. They also make the right adaptations to not only their products, but also the ways in which they do business, making their company easy for people of various cultures to interact with.
One of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.” Understand your customers, wherever they are, and then seek to provide them with the value they deserve from you.