Customer research makes gains in 2010

Recently, I lost my crystal ball.  So, I won't be adding to the posts about predictions for the new year.  Instead, I took a look backward to see whether previous year end posts still apply.  I think they do.

Learn from the past, capitalize on success

At the end of 2008, in Shorten the sales cycle next year:  Year end marketing planning, I advocated taking stock of what worked and what didn't--so that you can capitalize on your successes and avoid repeating what turned out to be mistakes. In particular, I suggested focusing on buyers' perceptions in four areas: the desirability of the solutions, the reputation of the vendor, the effectiveness of the communications, and the responsiveness of the individuals leading the sales or business development effort.

Sales enablement software prods companies to focus on customers' buying process

Two years later, few companies do the kind of structured analysis I recommended on an ongoing basis.  Yet, prodded by their acquisition of sales enablement software, many more companies are beginning down this path.

They're developing buyer personas (based on past experiences) and mapping their best customers' buying processes to identify points where they can influence the ultimate outcome of the sale. So, we're making progress.

Product teams incorporate customer feedback throughout the development process

On the product development front, product teams are increasingly using a process called "customer development" that calls for learning and iterating rather than linear execution.  This methodology, introduced by Steve Blank in the Four Steps to the Epiphany, and popularized by Eric Ries among others, advocates using minimally viable products (prototypes) to gather customer feedback throughout the development process.  This methodology also requires developers to validate the product market fit-before they launch new products-by finding early customers who will pay for the product under development.

Strategy trumps tactics

Last year, I questioned the seeming emphasis on demand generation and lead gen-at the expense of longer term strategic investments.  At the time, the economy was at its worst and  a lot of companies felt they couldn't afford to invest in gaining deep customer insights.

Today, with increasing competition, many realize they can't afford not to invest in learning about their best prospects' buying processes.  Moreover, automation has dramatically reduced the cost of gaining deep customers insights.  No longer do companies need to invest a lot of money in travel or convening a group of users at a common location to get deep customer insights.  In fact, they have lots of relatively inexpensive options for doing so:  social media, online communities, web analytics, online marketing research, and online usability tests to name a few.

Automation prompts strategic thinking-and makes it affordable

Each of these avenues is:

  • relatively inexpensive to administer (the bits travel, the administrators stay put),
  • offers greater reach and access than more traditional research methods (anyone with an Internet connection can participate), and is
  • more usable (automated tools for compiling and analyzing the data each creates are now accessible the non-statistician).

In fact, one of the experts I interviewed for a blog post, pointed out that digital marketing, by making it so easy to relate behavior to outcomes, has opened the door to strategy.

Customer research has crossed the chasm

I ended last year by asking, "Will 2010 be the year of the customer?".   Twelve months later, I think it's safe to say that we've crossed the chasm-and that we're definitely marching in that direction.

Too bad I couldn't locate that crystal ball.  I'm wondering what the future holds....

 

This blog

by Barbara Bix - In tough economic times, more and more clients are looking to their accountants to help them improve the bottom line. Often, the best way to do that is to start with the top line-since one can only decrease expenses so far. This blog discusses concrete actions you and your business-to-business clients can use to accelerate revenues.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

44675

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

77277

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

49667

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

90846
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
21574

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

56919

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

82088

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

25759

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

65486

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

35246
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
104295
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
26918

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

53848
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
28836
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
33196

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

102251

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

34505

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

113335

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

62410

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

40553
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
67593

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

93690

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

54766