By Erica Olsen
Spend Time Talking to Your Customers

When all else fails, the best strategy tool is to ask your customers why they buy from you! In doing so, you should find common themes that will help you identify strategies for future growth.

If you can, start by surveying your best customers, those 20% that make up 80% of revenue. Ask these questions of your 80/20 customers:

  • What are we doing that’s great?
  • What isn’t working and needs improvement?
  • What else would you like to see from our company? What else could we do to make your life easier?
  • If we ceased to exist, what would you do? What would you be giving up?
  • If a friend was in search of <fill in your type of company>, would you refer us? Why or why not?

Sam Walton, of Wal-Mart, reportedly spent five days every month interacting with customers in his stores. This amount of dedicated time kept him close to and in touch with his customers needs and wants. Although I doubt his customer attention was the only reason for Wal-Mart’s runaway success, it surely played a big part.

Gathering feedback from a variety of sources results in an objective, comprehensive picture of who your customers are, what they want, and what they value. However, collecting the information is only half of the  equation. Ensure that everyone in the company knows what customers are thinking by sharing customer feedback through the organization. By spreading the news, everyone will start to make better more informed decisions. For your strategic plan, you can use the information you collected over the years to make calculated decisions that have broader implications.