When the world changes as rapidly as it does today, one of the greatest challenges we all face in business is staying relevant to our target market. The main reason is that just as the world is changing, so are our customers. They have far more distractions, choices, opportunities and ways to communicate that can ultimately test just how strong the bond between customer and business actually is.
So how do we make sure we stay relevant to our customers?
1. Spend time where our customers spend time.
To stay relevant and engaged we need to make sure we are getting the right information about needs, wants, expectations etc. from our targeted audience. This means spending time with your customers face to face, spending time with the virtually, spending time with them however we can. As soon as we are disconnected from our audience in any way, our relevance starts to diminish.
2. Connect in ways that your customers want to connect.
There are no shortages of ways to communicate, the challenge for us when it comes to staying relevant is ensuring that we are communicating in ways that are relevant to the market. If our targeted audience is embracing a new social media platform and we are not, clearly there are issues ahead. This might sound ridiculously obvious, yet I constantly encounter businesses that are complaining that they can't reach their audience but they are trying to talk via platforms that they use, but their customers no longer use. We need to be nimble and flexible and connect how our customers want to connect not how it suits us.
3. Engage your customers don't just talk at them.
If you want to be relevant with your audience, communication needs to be much more about engagement as opposed to a one sided stream of information. We need to find the right way to stay engaged with our audience, that encourages a sense of trust and builds a meaningful flow of information, and that means a two-way flow. This is especially important to help with product development and sales - are we offering products or services that our audience wants to buy?
4. Be aware but not alarmed over what your competitors are doing
We need to be aware of our competitors without being obsessed by them. We need to know our competitive advantage and be able to explain this to our customers. We need to know where they are heading, what their focus is and how that will impact our business.
5. Know the trends heading your way and have a strategy to take advantage of them.
I was a marketing consultant long before the Internet came along. When the first whispers came out, and email started being a thing, it became very obvious, very quickly, that the online world (as we started to call it) was going to change marketing once and for all and we needed to start planning for it now. Many years later, there are still a surprising number of businesses that live in hope that the Internet will disappear (I can't believe how many businesses don't even have a website). There will always be game changers appearing, disruption is a word that we are all very familiar with, we need to be open minded and ready for it.
6. Create great content that solves problems
Content is a commodity - and it's a valuable commodity for staying engaged and connected with our customers. We need to be creating content that helps our customers with their problems and in the coming years, I think we will need to be creating even more content. Remember, no one does things the way you do it, that's what your customers are after. Solve enough problems and you will always be relevant.
7. Keep coming up with new products and services and be prepared to get it wrong
We live in a world that loves everything new, and to stay relevant, we need to be coming up with new products and services all of the time - and we have to be OK with getting some of these wrong. Our customers will no longer crucify us for not getting things right, they will crucify us for not coming up with "NEW".
Staying relevant in a world that punishes a lack of relevance ruthlessly, means we need to spend time and energy to doing whatever it takes to stay relevant. We have to be strategic about how we stay relevant and we have to work at it every single day. We can never take our position with our customers for granted.