Customer Closeness – Putting the ‘What’ before the ‘How’

So, you’ve decided that you need to get your business closer to its shoppers and you’re thinking about how to accomplish that.

When you try to build customer closeness in your business, you’ll find no shortage of creativity out there in agency land, and that’s a great and necessary thing – that is the kind of creativity that, properly deployed will really help to make your activities memorable.
In order to be truly effective however, the customer closeness programme has to start with the ‘what’, before jumping straight to the ‘how’. As with any project, in order to be successful, it is crucial to think up front about what you want to achieve and set some concrete goals.

As we mentioned in our previous article, we firmly believe that customer closeness should be about illuminating what you already know in new ways, not telling you something totally new. This being the case, what are the messages you need to land and what will your stakeholder reaction be? What will the likely challenges be and what will you do to overcome them? Working out the answers to these questions up front will enable you to choose the best methodologies to accomplish this in the most efficient and effective way.

You should also think about how each activity fits with the next – a scattergun approach of many different activities risks diverting attention away from the key business issues and sending confusing messages to stakeholders.
We have found that having a framework in which customer closeness activities can take place is the most effective way to manage this.

We worked with one retailer who had identified 8 distinct business issues that would impact its financial performance over the coming year. The customer closeness programme that we built used a variety of different activities to illuminate each one of those business issues in turn, using the robust research that had already been carried out as a launching platform. This meant that stakeholders had a rich and textured understanding of the issue, as well as all of the data at their fingertips when they made decisions to address the issues.

Do you want to illuminate a particular business issue? Do you want to provide a seasonal lens? Do you want to bust some shopper myths? Follow the shopper journey? There are any number of potential ‘hooks’ to hang the programme on and aiming at the right one will yield powerful results.

Working with a framework allows you to maintain an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, as well as co-ordinate the closeness activities with your wider research programme, ensuring that one feeds seamlessly into the other.

Creativity is critical but beware of launching an activity over the wall in the hope that it will accomplish something. Face to face contact with shoppers will always be useful, but it won’t achieve maximum impact unless you set some goals up front, and co-ordinate it properly with the rest of your research programme.