There is a saying (the only attribution I can find is that it comes from a fortune cookie!) that goes, “Though we cannot change the direction of the wind, we can adjust our sails.” With the uncertainty being thrown at us over the last few years, we have all had to make a lot of adjustments in our sails.
But, what adjustments do we make? What direction is the wind blowing? What direction will it blow?
There is no better compass for businesses than their customers. While simply asking them where you should go clearly sends the wrong message (a message of weakness), asking the right questions will help you find your way.
1. Ask your customers where their business is headed. Who better to travel with than your customers? Find out what they think is happening in their markets and work together to address those markets.
2. Ask your customers what challenges they are encountering. As the line from Jerry Maguire goes, “Help me, help you.” You don’t have to be quite that dramatic about it, but you get the idea. Nothing will endear you to your customers more than helping them solve their problems.
3. Ask your customers what challenges their customers are encountering. Not only is this a good indication of pressures in the market, it will also allow you to add more value for your customer by helping them help their customers to succeed.
4. Ask your customers where they are spending their innovation dollars. Are there any areas where co-creation might make sense? Working together in a successful initiative can create an unbreakable bond.
The real key is open communication with your customers about topics that will enable you both to adjust your sails and take advantage of the power created by the wind. Working together with your customers for the benefit of their businesses will have a dramatic and positive impact on yours.