Discover your customers. Especially in these years of crisis

Many companies in the building and interior industries are having a hard time. What is the best strategy to search for customers, to find them and generate new business?

By Yvonne Keijzers, owner of Pasklaar Communicatie and founder of SustainableWorking.

new-customer2

We hear it every day: the crisis isn’t over yet. Everybody is looking for new customers or new ways to serve existing customers. Oddly enough, companies have the tendency to start focussing inward in times of crisis. They tend to concentrate on restructuring and increasing control by means of procedures and protocols. Such a tendency leads to people sitting indoors, filling out spreadsheets, which is exactly what you shouldn’t be doing, for a sitting duck is sure to lead to even less turnover.

Companies should utilise these times of crisis by innovating through cooperation. Everybody is looking around, which increases the opportunities for cooperation. It is especially through cooperation that new things can be created.

How do you start?

How do you step beyond the known boundaries? How do you go about it?
First and foremost: keep networking, talking, thinking and researching. Reach out to others, dare to ask questions. Check your organisation’s possibilities and re-check your talent pool. What are your opportunities and threats? What are potential (new) markets? Which cooperations are possible? What new technologies seem promising? Where are new prospects to be found? In short: gather ideas.
Listen to the market. Which problems are people facing? What stories are being told? This requires listening and building up a dialogue, face to face or via social media.

Ideas enough – the House of Plenty

Ever heard of the House of Plenty? This is a co-working space which is being built without money but with stuff, ideas and people’s downtime. I am participating in this project and what I learn from it is to think outside of the box and how to generate ideas. The project is based on the ‘Dare-to-Ask’ principle and uses the power of networks to get things done.

House of Plenty

But even more importantly, there is room for failure, for things going wrong, and this opens your mind to other ways of approaching an issue because it is ok when something doesn’t work out immediately. You’ll just have to try something else.

So get up from behind your desk and do something which seems odd. Go to a trade fair which has nothing to do with your business, go running, visit a museum during working hours or read a book. Look around and let your impressions impress you. Think what these could mean to your organisation. And promote this among your co-workers. Ideas will flow.

Ideas into action

Is it enough to have a good idea every now and then? It is. Make sure a good idea is put into practice. Having an idea is not difficult at all, but translating it into a viable business concept is another issue. This requires action and cooperation. Think positive, share success and engage others in the process to create action. And even though 90% of ideas does not make it, you will still have the 10%.

Tell stories

How do you get your customers to buy your idea? If you get to your idea in this way, it means you have a story to tell. Every organisation consists of stories. What is the origin of the company? What is your vision? Why was this product developed?

tell them your story

These stories have something in common, which you can share with your market. Sharing your stories means creating a dialogue with your customers, which is becoming more and more important. Determine a cross-media strategy to tell your story since each channel adds its own value.

A good direct mailing can also work, or a blog. Write a guest piece for a blog, of which this article is a good example. SustainableWorking, Officenieuws.com and SoYouKnowBetter.com are open to this. In this way, you benefit from the platform these blogs have built, enabling you to build up your own presence on social media. It will generate traffic to your website and offers potential for innovative services. Be aware that the power of social media is their social signature. It is about people connecting with people. Facilitate meetings; create inspiration in your showroom and offices, connect an action to this and invite your followers.

It is all about dialogue. A dialogue starts when you show interest and ask questions and share relevant content. If you manage to translate your new ideas into innovative services matching the urgent needs of your customer, the crisis will be over for you.

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