Election aftermath: how well do you know your customers?

The result of the U.S. Presidential election two weeks ago was stunning: virtually all pollsters, analysts, model builders (e.g. Nate Silver at 538.com) and pundits – on both sides of the political divide – missed their prognostications.  Today, we have President-Elect Donald Trump.

The postmortems pile up; somehow, everyone misread the situation, and we’ve seen headlines like these:

“Women didn’t vote for Clinton in the numbers expected.”

“Surprising number of Latinos vote for Trump.”

“Undecideds went at the last moment for Trump.”

“The Obama coalition didn’t hold, rust belt blue collar voters fled.”

“Big city pundits need to get out of their ‘bubbles’ and visit the rest of the country.”

The lesson, and the question those of us in business must ask;  “If an ‘election’ were held today, how would my customers ‘vote?’  Would they vote (buy) our company and products, or would they opt for our top competitor’s?”

We’ve all been in the uncomfortable position of learning that a “good customer, no, one of our best” has left us and bought his next (aircraft, engine overhaul, FBO visit) from one of our fierce competitors.

Did you see it coming?  Do you have any kind of “early warning system” in place to uncover dissatisfaction, concern about your products or services, or even a more aggressive push by competition?

We’ve written extensively* that you should have a comprehensive measurement program in place, to be able to show what’s working in your marketing and sales programs and know what is not working so you can fix it effectively.

And such a measurement program must include tools to monitor your customers and prospects:

  • What do our customers think of us; what do they think of our competition? What do they think of our product quality? What is our brand awareness, and reputation? These measures  may include metrics such as:
    • Net Promoter Score (“Would you recommend us . . .?”)
    • Conversion scores (awareness, to consideration, to favorite)
    • Product differentiation scoring
  • We must talk intensely to our customers, and monitor competitive activity, to confirm that:
    • We continue to offer superior product value in the marketplace
    • We haven’t fallen behind in after sales service or support
    • Some Challenger brand isn’t aggressivley sneaking up on us with a disruptive product, and significantly greater value

Now, losing a customer doesn’t always mean that we’ve done something wrong, or that our products aren’t performing as promised.  Sometimes the issue can be a change in management (the new CEO prefers Gulfstream, not Global Express), or, something that we’ve also written about, a generational change:

“As the retirement of the boomer generation accelerates over the next ten years, the follow-on generations of business owners and managers – Generation X and Millenials – will be the new customers. Their attitude toward business aviation may be different – appreciative of what a business aircraft can do but less about passion for flying and more about function and contribution to the bottom-line; less concern for owning the latest and greatest and more about the bargain they got on a low time aircraft.”

“Sales Management; Sales Channels; Sales Challenges” – Business Aviation Marketing for the Next Ten Years

If you do see a change in management at a customer company, there may be nothing you can do about any forthcoming changes but nonetheless you should have a formal process in place to monitor high level turnover at customer companies.  When these changes happen, quickly get in to see your key contacts in the flight department, or mid-level executives still in place who traditionally have had aviation decision-making involvement (of course we’re assuming that you do have good relationships with those people).

State your case with the contacts you have, be aggressive about wanting to keep the business, and hope for the best.  Again, it may not matter with a new CEO that has his mind set on a different direction, but if you don’t try then it will be as Wayne Gretzky once said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

As for the second issue, generational change, that is something you must get in front of, because it is happening, and you must be prepared.  Look inside your own company:  what are the changes you see as the older managers and staff retire and are replaced by younger people? Much has and will be written about these changes, so first get a good general grounding in the phenomenon and then, second, get someone to help you figure out specifically what it means for your products and the way you do your marketing and selling.

So . . . do you take the time to systematicaly stay in touch with your customers? Are you in tune with the generational and cultural changes that affect business?

Are you in your own bubble that you need to break out of?

Who would your customers vote for today?

Take the time, make the effort to know your customers.

*Three things you must do for your 2017 business aviation marketing, and A Brief Overview of Business Aviation Market Research

Mark Ryan

November 19, 2016

Dallas, TX