Why the Customer is the New King

The key to success in the Age of the Customer is to know your customer.

While cash has been king of the distribution hill for decades, a new king has staked a claim in today's market: the customer. The customer is in control of when, where and how they want to do business – and they're willing to go elsewhere if you can't meet those demands.

Distributors may be losing as much as 5 percent of their business without knowing it, according to Jonathan Bein, managing partner at Real Results Marketing. Bein spoke about changing customer demands at Sales GPS 2017, a joint MDM-Indian River Consulting Group Executive Workshop in March.

It's easier than ever for customers to find new sources for products that can meet their needs and wants. And it's not just about purchasing. It's the best information to answer their questions. It's having the technical information to allow them to determine if they need to call a service technician to resolve an issue.

The key to success – both online and off – is knowing your customers and what they want, according to Jennie Stenback, vice president of marketing communications, strategy & services for 3Wire Group Inc., a Minneapolis, MN-based distributor of OEM products for the foodservice and beverage industries.

"Company, customer and competitive analysis takes time but it is a critical first step – both in establishing your future e-commerce vision and in defining your business case for investment. Further, it will provide the benchmarks to prove the efficacy of your new platform," Stenback wrote in a recent blog.

How do you uncover what your customers want? The answer is simple – even if the action requires some work. "Ask your customers. Always ask – and then ask again – and ALWAYS quantify," Stenback says.

Keeping your focus on the customer is more critical than any platform you may choose. Without customer input, you may overspend on features they will never use and underspend in areas that will drive them to your competitors.

It's not impossible to adapt to the changing demographics and demands of your customers, even if you lack a traditional information technology background, Stenback says. Just keep your eye on the customer experience when developing your strategy.

Hear more from Stenback in the upcoming MDM Webcast: Survive and Thrive in the Age of the Customer, Tuesday, May 2, at 1 p.m. EDT.

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