Strategic Planning - Part 3 - clients
Are you standing still or are your products and services adapting to reflect the changing needs of your customers/clients.
We are all familiar with the story relating to the extinction of the dinosaurs, it was not about survival of the fittest but the ability to adapt to a changing environment.
We are living in a volatile world not made any easier by Covid where we are being asked questions about our ability to adapt. How are you reviewing your products and services and making them relevant to your clients.
Traditional relationships are under threat because the needs of the client are not being understood, something that easily rectifiable. More than ever there is a need to get closer to your customers and get answers to questions that give you the insights you need to staying relevant. So, how often do you sit down with customers and spend time listening to the challenges they are facing. When I say listen, this is about asking the probing questions to see how you can respond in a way that locks you in and more importantly keeps your competitors out.
Let me give you a simple example of how a small company responded to the growing needs of one of its clients.
Year 1 - can you take our labels and fill our 3,000 envelopes with a report we give you- yes
Year 2 - can you supply the printed labels, envelopes and fill them with a report we give you - yes
Year 3 - can you design the report, print it, label the envelopes and pack them - yes
Year 4 - Year 20 - can you design, print, pack and post - yes
The purpose of this simple but true story is the changing needs of the client and the response from the supplier. The final service was an end to end solution which not only rewarded the supplier with a nice piece of business annually but virtually locked in the client. The only area that was open for a competitor to attack was price and that meant the client taking the chance that the level of service they were getting would be maintained.
The fact that the supplier in this case needed to outsource parts of the offering was not important once they kept them under their control. It would have been easier just to do their piece and let the client sort out the rest but that would have created an opportunity for someone else.
To survive and thrive you need to be able to adapt and that more than likely will involve collaboration. This poses the next question, who are you collaborating with now to deliver a better offering or who could you collaborate with to deliver an end to end product or service.
The last example was of a small firm responding to a changing need and in this example you see another advantage of this strategy. Large accountancy firms are now offering end to end solutions for their large clients. Traditionally they would have compiled the information for the Annual Report but now they have in-house design, print and fulfilment capabilities. This suggests that if you are a small design house or printer your market is under threat but you can respond by means of collaboration. However, this needs to be a proactive strategy rather than a reactive one which may be too late.
If we look at the retail sector the traditional butcher was under threat of extinction as the large supermarket chains put in their own butchering departments. However, more recently many local butchers have rebranded, up-skilled their staff and now offer a range of products that include full meals ready for the oven. In fact many now have shops beside the supermarkets because they know they can be hoover up business that the less flexible supermarkets are not able to offer.
How is your market place being affected by change and how proactive are you in identifying it and then responding to it. You may be like the dinosaur at one time, strong and confident but the real question to ask is, are you adaptable enough to stay around for the long haul?
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