After more than ten years in this business, I have read thousands of interviews our clients have conducted with their most important customers. I am sometimes asked what, if anything, surprises me about the challenges and opportunities our clients have with their customers. The truth is that there’s not a whole lot that surprises me anymore. For all that is unique about every organization, there are struggles that many companies seem to have, regardless of the industries they represent. One of the issues that is common – though still somewhat surprising – is that customers often say that their suppliers need to do a better job of communicating their capabilities.
Rather than explain in detail, I’ll let the customers do it themselves in the form of quotes we’ve seen from client interviews. Each of the following comments were made in response to the question, “What should we improve?” Some of what they’ve said:
“Your company would do well to better market and display its capabilities…”
“Promote your complete product range and service capabilities.”
“Better anticipate our needs and convey your capabilities and innovations to us.”
“You are only touching the surface of the opportunities at [customer], and we have been asking for your company’s help for a long time.”
Each of these examples indicates that the customer is willing, even motivated, to buy more from the supplier organization. It’s almost as if the customer is saying, “We’d be happy to do more business with your company, if only we knew what else you could do to help us.” This is what a former boss of mine, Tom Haller, used to call marketing at the customer interface. These customers aren’t asking for more brochures or product specification sheets. They want the supplier to understand their business needs and challenges and recommend products or services that can help them save money, make money, or bring them some sort of competitive advantage.
The bottom line: Customers often extend what amounts to an invitation to the party. If you forget to RSVP and fail to show up, next time the invitation may go to someone else.
Eric Engwall, Managing Partner