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The most successful businesses are built on passion. However, at a certain point, relying on a great product alone will not ensure success. Every business needs a market-driven strategy to identify, target and reach customers looking for the unique attributes found in its products and services.
The marketplace and consumer wants are constantly changing and keeping one's product in the forefront of customers minds requires a strategy. The core of any market-driven strategy is putting customer needs first, and adapting business operations around those needs, to stay connected to interested customers.
Developing a Market- Driven Strategy
Where to start? Regularly identifying one's customer base is critical, as customers change over time. Household sizes, changing community demographics, food trends and swings in the economy can all contribute to changes in customer demand. Goal setting is critical, as is creating a list of essential questions that can help the company nimbly adjust to changes in consumer preference and demand. Examples of these essential questions include:
- What are the characteristics of your target customers?
- Has your customer base changed over time?
- Where do they live? What do they need?
- Will your target group really benefit from your product/service?
- And finally, are there enough people who fit your customer criteria to financially sustain your business?
Finding out what your customers want
Once a customer base is identified, verifying what they want comes next. This is called market research. While this term may sound complicated or expensive, it's nothing more than asking people what they want in an organized way. Market research generally falls into two buckets: primary data collection (collecting surveys, interviews, other information first hand) and secondary data collection (reading reputable reports, census information and articles prepared by other people to glean information about your customer base). Have you ever stood around your farm stand chatting with customers about what they're interested in buying, or looked up articles about marketing to certain audiences? Chances are that you've done both primary and secondary data collection to inform your business strategy, even if you didn't know it at the time!
Discovering a segment of customers and orienting marketing efforts to them gives the best chance of cultivating repeat customers. Understanding the drives, motivations and desires of a given customer base requires some up-front work, and the shift to customer relationships can be worth the effort over a scattershot approach to finding that ideal customer who will readily perceive value in a product.
A natural part of running a business is understanding how culture, trends, demands, and other factors impact your customer base and your market-driven strategy (see Food Flavor and Food Industry trend articles). Developing genuine customer relations strategies over time may save money on customer acquisition by learning more about customers to gain insights to build new, potentially profitable products with built-in demand. As trends and other shifts impact your business, it is equally important to consider the evolving needs of your customers as it is to consider your own interests and resources.