Why Asking “Why?” Will Work for You
ASKING “WHY” IS THE FIRST step in my approach to consulting with a business executive, coaching a sales or marketing team, finding out what’s working and what isn’t in any organization, and helping any company achieve its goals.
Asking why is also a good way to begin this book, starting with our title. Let’s begin with that promise. Why is this book going to help solve your business problems and break out in a competitive marketplace?
First, let’s be clear that by breaking out we don’t mean just getting ahead and leading the pack. No, indeed. What we want to achieve is leaving the entire pack of competitors in the dust, far behind.
That’s our goal here: to elevate your business performance and presence so that you are the best and only choice for your product and services — regardless of your geographic footprint, vertical, or target markets. This book is intended to help you and your organization reach the point of truly “breaking out in a competitive marketplace.”
If you ask “why,” then ask again, and then again, you can discover the truth about solving any problem in business. This works for every aspect of your company, from building a team to product development to sales and customer retention.
You already have plenty of questions, I’m sure. You’ve bought this book with a goal in mind, and have a list of your own. But let’s begin with a few suggestions so you that can get an idea of how to organize the Power of Why and move forward with each new question building on the answers you’re receiving.
How can I break out in a competitive marketplace?
Here are three questions we can begin with and some typical answers I’ve heard:
1. Why are your customers buying from you right now?
“I was first to market. For eighteen months now there’s been no other product available that’s exactly like mine . But my competitor is gearing up to come out with something we hear is very close, and maybe better, so my product development team is scratching to get a prototype and see how we can top it.”
“I have the lowest price. But my gross margins are way down and I’m not making enough net profit.”
“Our distribution is tops. We’re in every tech store in the country. But an upstart from out of nowhere is selling online, so every day he’s chipping away at my base.”
2. Are your customers staying with you or shopping around, and if so, why?
“We’re pretty good at bringing them in, but the customer ‘fickle level’ is intense and we can’t figure it out. Sometimes it looks like a revolving door to me. They’re coming in, then turning around and going out, and we usually don’t see them again.”
“Our research shows a customer retention rate of only 64 percent. I’m guessing it’s because of negligible differences in price, platform, product specs, packaging, and customer service. But I don’t really know why they leave.”
“The stick-with-us level is pretty flat, and we’ve got to increase it to get out ahead of our competition.”
3. What is it about your competition’s relationship to their customers that you haven’t figured out yet? Why are they so successful?
“I really don’t know why. Our sales team is as good as theirs, but they’re definitely gaining more customers and keeping them in the family longer. In fact, forever! How do they do that?”
“I wish I knew. We need to do a better sales job, so I tried to hire their COO away from my biggest competitor, but he just smiled and said no thanks.”
“We’re not nearly as big or well known yet as most of our competitors, but I know we can catch up and pass the whole pack. I’m trying to find a new approach that we can afford that will give us a kick start.”
The Value of Our Preliminary Answers
All of the answers so far identify overriding problems that lead to one precise goal: to increase your number of customers and keep them in the fold. No one wants a customer who’s just passing through, constantly shopping for the small incremental incentives that you or one of your competitors may be offering. This kind of consumer is what I call “loyalty neutral”. They don’t particularly care whom they buy from and have no devotion to any one brand, retail outlet, supplier or client service.
What we’d all prefer, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a customer who would never think of changing, who is completely committed to you and what you provide for them. The challenge is how to reach, capture, and keep this type of customer whom I define as a “delighted advocates.”
To accomplish this, your job is to transform your company into a customer-centric organization. I’ve found that customers hunger for businesses that are genuinely focused on making a difference in their lives, and not just on making a buck. Unfortunately, most of us in business are so focused on making a buck that we miss what’s happening on a daily basis with our customers. Well-intentioned executives in front office, marketing, and sales find themselves struggling to achieve a deep understanding of the real reasons why customers inquire, buy, and remain loyal to a business today. Their marketing and sales messaging and service deliverables are primarily focused on business performance or product offerings. They’re company-centric rather than customer-centric. So they’re not yet creating real loyalty and delighted advocacy.
That is the premise of this book. The relentless focus by businesses to achieve growth by touting who they are or how they are good has had disastrous effects on growth, customer retention, and marketplace distinction. Consequently, discounting has replaced value — which has gone to zero!
Adopting and consistently delivering a customer-centric perspective in marketing, sales, and service profoundly elevates business performance throughout every aspect of your organization. That’s what this book is about.
There are many facets to this process, which I’ll explain in detail in this book. Individually, they are significant. Together, they will enable any business or professional to break out in the competitive, commoditized environment we know as the world of business today.
This leads to our next question:
What happens when you turn loyalty neutral customers into delighted advocates?
We’ve all experienced advocacy, or, if you will, passionate devotion, and I don’t mean just with our family, friends, and co-workers. I’ve been in love with Peet’s Coffee since it opened its first shop in 1966, launching the nationwide craft coffee movement and inspiring other chains like Starbucks, Tully’s, and others. Peet’s had stayed pretty small, with only 201 stand-alone stores, mostly in the West but relatively unknown elsewhere in the country. But in July of 2012, it was sold to a private German holding company, Joh. A. Benkiser (JAB), for nearly $1billion.