How to know the best of customer strategy

After losing the fourth major deal in a row to a rival, the CEO of a technology solutions company turned to his team leaders to ask what was going wrong. The sales team doesn’t have the right relationships, marketing reported. Our products lack key features, sales replied. The offerings are too expensive, finance explained. None of these answers seemed right. The products were made in the countries where manufacturing was cheapest, had high ratings from analysts, and included new features that people raved about. So the CEO finally called the client and bluntly asked: “Why did you give this deal to our competitor?”

The response: “Your products are great, but your competitor gives me what I’m looking for.” As they talked, the CEO realized that closing this deal — and other deals — didn’t come down only to product price, quality, features, or sales capabilities. The competitor spoke the language of the customer. Its salespeople knew how to anticipate the customer’s needs, work closely with its leaders, and come up with solutions to problems that hadn’t even been voiced yet. The CEO now saw that his company lacked a key ingredient necessary for serving its clients: a deliberate, well-designed, and perceptive customer strategy.

This real-life scenario is all too familiar. The conventional approach to gaining customers, which was based on picking a segment of purchasers to target and developing products for that segment, is no longer sufficient. A customer strategy goes further: It is the articulation of the distinctive value and experience your company will deliver to a chosen set of customers over three to five years, along with the offerings, channels, operating model, and capabilities you will need. In 2016 a team of researchers and advisors from the customer strategy practice at Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting group, conducted a global survey of 161 executives. And the findings indicated that having a customer strategy was high in importance. More than 80 percent of the respondents said their investment in customer strategy during the next three to five years would be equal to or greater than the amount invested this year.

In developing a successful customer strategy, you must provide answers to questions such as these: Who are our customers? Which of their needs can we address? Given our company’s overall value proposition and strategy, what customer experience should we create? What capabilities do we need in order to deliver that experience? How should we organize ourselves accordingly, and what aspects of our culture can help us?

A well-designed customer strategy will coordinate many different functions, skills, and practices. For example, it should encompass data analytics; go-to-market and channel choices; and the delivery of products, services, and experiences.Ten principles are at the heart of any effective customer strategy. These principles are universally applicable, regardless of what industry a company operates in, whether it focuses on a business or consumer clientele, where it does business, or what products and services it offers. Based on long-standing practice and observation — along with our survey and interviews with key players in eight industries — these principles show how companies can position themselves for customer success.