Who is the Voice of the Customer?

The voice of the customer is a very important person in any company. This is the person that sees things the way your customers see them. This is the person that raises their hand in a meeting and tells you that the customer is not going to like a new policy or feature. This is the person who is going to evaluate all internal decisions based on the impact on existing customers.

Without the voice of the customer, your company will be out of touch. You will be making decisions that executives see as best for the business without anyone to say whether or not customers are going to be happy.

What Qualifies Someone to Be the Voice of the Customer?

There are numerous positions in each company that could conceivably take on this role. Whoever it is has to have an intimate knowledge of who the customer is and why they do business with your company. They don’t have to speak directly to customers on a regular basis, but it certainly helps.

The voice of the customer should have a certain level of authority and decision-making power within the company. They have to have a seat at the table, so that the voice of the customer is heard when it matters most.

There is a case to be made that the person in charge is the voice of the customer. And at many start-ups and small businesses, the leader is the person that can fill that role. But the many responsibilities of the business leader or CEO will lead, sooner or later, to the voice of the customer role taking a back seat to the job of running the business.

A case can also be made for sales or customer service to represent the voice of the customer. Those teams are on the front lines, the ones who are dealing with customers day in and day out. But questions arise over whether these teams have enough internal power to ensure that the voice of the customer is included in all major decisions.

In many businesses, it is the product management team that must act as the voice of the customer. This team is responsible for the product, and a product is only as good as its ability to meet the needs of its customers. Product leads must work to incorporate customer’s wants and needs into the product, and can represent the very same to the overall business.

What Does the Voice of the Customer Do?

The voice of the customer has a number of responsibilities, most of them informal.

  1. Push for policies that are favorable to the customer and against policies that inhibit the customer experience.

  2. Push for new product features that would improve the overall satisfaction of the customer.

  3. Remind others within the organization to keep the customer in mind in everything that they do.

  4. Remind executives who the customer is and how their decisions will impact them.

  5. Make the case for pricing terms that are favorable to the customer.

In a sense, the voice of the customer is just what it sounds like. This person represents the customer interest in all things. It is as if you are giving your customers a seat at the table.

Who Should Be the Voice of the Customer?

No matter what their title, the person in your company who should be the voice of the customer has to be dedicated and fearless.

The person who will be successful in this role will do whatever it takes to understand customers better. They will get on the phone, send out emails, and hit the road to talk to customers. They will know what they like and don’t like about the product, why they chose your company over the competition, how they use your product, and more.

And they will not be afraid to share this information and speak up when it matters most. Whether it’s a meeting with their team, or a bunch of executives sitting around the conference room table getting ready to make a critical business decision. This person will have no problem speaking up.

How to Start a Profitable Business on Amazon – Guest Post

The following is a guest post by Mark Armstrong. Mark started off as a business consultant for small SEO and web design companies. Eventually, his heart went towards e-commerce and all the awesome things that are happening in that niche. He has a plan on creating his own website but for now, he is focused on reaching out to people with a similar mindset and getting his name out there.

The reason why FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) is such a revolutionary program is due to the fact that it made online trade (and trade in general) simpler than it ever was before. In fact, this feature is on a rapid rise in popularity and this year alone there are 1,029,528 new sellers on the platform. In the past, there was a belief that the use of a third-party marketplace is a stepping stone or a temporary move but this is no longer the case. Amazon went above and beyond to allow its users to customize and improve their presence in order to persuade them to see this marketplace as a permanent solution. Nonetheless, getting there is much easier if you have a solid start. Here are some tips that could point you in the right direction.

1. Finding the right product

As soon as you pick the niche (which is somewhat subjective), you’ll be faced with the most important task of them all – picking the right product. Here, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some factors that could make your life a lot easier. For instance, an item that’s light in weight is easier to transport, whereas an average product sale price that’s between $10 and $50 tends to be the most profitable.

Also, when inspecting other products, you need to check the number of monthly searches of their top 3 keywords. Ideally, you would see over 100,000 searches per month. One last piece of advice that a lot of people tend to forget about is the question of whether it’s a seasonal product or something that generates revenue all year round. Remember, there’s no right or wrong here but the degree to which these fit your plans may vary.

One of the things that you won’t hear that often is the fact that China is probably the fastest-growing market on Amazon. In fact, its share is about 25 percent of the Amazon marketplace and there’s a growing number of sellers from this region (especially in Hong Kong). Therefore, finding an item that sells well in China might give you a boost.

2. A frugal start

The main reason why FBA is such a popular feature is due to the fact that it allows you to launch with as little as $2,000. This means that you can enter the business world without selling assets or getting in debt. In fact, you can use this program in order to amass an initial capital, regardless if you aim to make your own e-store later on or remain on Amazon for good. Still, just because your break-even point is close, this doesn’t mean that you can afford to underestimate or ignore it. Therefore, you should make all the necessary steps to cut your operational costs even further.

The first idea you need to consider is the notion of drop shipping, which allows you to trade in items without having to purchase them first or keep them in storage. Of course, this minimizes your profit per unit but it also insulates you from the risk of overinvesting in a product that people aren’t interested in. It also allows you to keep your logistics much simpler, due to the fact that you don’t actually have to handle the issue of storage yourself. One more thing you can do to minimize the cost is to find a local manufacturer and supplier. Here, the term local refers to the proximity to your customer, especially if you’re trading in a foreign market.

3. A good return policy

Perhaps the most important reason why you need your own e-store, other than avoiding the fee, is the fact that there are so many fake items on platforms like Amazon. This somewhat ruins the reputation of the platform and causes a general audience to be less trustworthy towards those using this business model. Needless to say, the only way to avoid this is with the help of a good return policy. Nowadays, this process can be automated and facilitated with the use of an Amazon refund tool.

What you need to consider is the fact that by offering a refund for your products you A) demonstrate that you are confident in their quality and B) have respect for your customers. This way, you’re also demonstrating that you’re more interested in maintaining a good relationship with your customers than making a one-time sale. Also, a person returning the product is usually not satisfied with it and offering them a full refund might, potentially, prevent them from leaving a negative review. In this way, a good return policy also becomes a method of damage control.

4. Work on your brand

In theory, all you have to do in order to start selling on Amazon is make a registered account, however, in order to maximize your profit, you need to do substantially more. First of all, you should host a website, potentially even a blog. Nonetheless, like Amazon, there are just platforms for the promotion of your business. What you also need are brand markings like a logo, a slogan, and a company name. You need to understand that buyers tend to judge products by the title of a listing. In order to maximize your appeal, you need to include a brand name, the name of the product and list a couple of features to the title.

5. The importance of images

The downside of selling items on Amazon (and of e-commerce, in general), lies in the fact that your audience can’t personally examine the product like they would if they were to visit a brick and mortar retail place. The closest you can get to make up for this is to take quality photographs, use adequate photography methods and upload them to the product page. The method is particularly important and it depends on the type of the product. For instance, a ghost mannequin is ideal for selling clothing items, while it’s an unavailable option for other product types.

Conclusion

In the end, you need to understand that the choice of staying on Amazon or switching to a platform of your own depends only on your preference and long-term plans. As for the profit and chances of advancement, there’s really no limitation. You see, over 70 percent of all U.S. consumers have a tendency of buying from Amazon and there are those who managed to profit from this idea. In fact, the simplicity of this process is something that could potentially allow a one-person startup to earn several thousand dollars per hour. Nevertheless, it will take quite a bit of time and effort until you reach this stage.

10 Ways Your Business Could be at Risk

Many people dream of setting up a business and becoming their own boss. It’s an especially attractive alternative when finding a job becomes difficult, or you just can’t stand your current profession. But as many small business owners would agree, owning your own company offers might offer a lot of rewards and they can come with certain risks.

Growing businesses comes with a range of challenges. At some point, you would be facing risks that could have little to an enormous effect on the profitability, security, and stability of the company, but as long as the business is operating or expanding, it’s not something you can avoid.

Different factors can influence any risk on your business, and each of them demands different solutions. Sometimes, what worked before might not be the best approach for the current situation. You can protect your company by coming up with strategies on how to manage these risk. It’s also essential to acting quickly and decisively to save your business from any trouble.

As a business owner, you must identify them before they could even grow into a more troublesome problem. This infographic by Bizprac lists out ten ways your business could be at risk.

10 Ways Your Business Could Be At Risk - Infographic

How to Compete

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You are likely to find that most businesspeople are competitive. Especially in marketing, people want to win.

Business has always been competitive. That’s one of the expectations of a free market system. Businesses compete with one another for customers.

And despite most typical assumptions, there are a number of different ways to compete. Most people only really think about two ways to compete:

  1. Quality
  2. Price

But there are many more, often obvious, ways to compete. So let’s review those here.

Compete on Quality

Everyone knows you can compete on quality. If you have a better product or service than your nearest competitor, you are likely to take market share from them.

Choosing to compete on quality means three things. First, you believe that you can consistently outperform when it comes to the quality of your product or service. If you didn’t, you would find another way to compete.

Second, it means that you believe there is a demonstrated desire by consumers for this higher quality. And third, you believe in your ability to communicate your higher quality to those consumers.

The key is, if you compete on quality, you must always be one step ahead of your competitors, those that already exist and any potential newcomers.

Compete on Price

There are always companies in every industry that will compete on price. It is the oldest form of competition. If I think that I can offer the same thing that you offer, but for a lower price, I will. I know that all other things equal, the lower price will always win.

But as successful as many companies have been focusing on price, this form of competition comes with high risk. Why?

What happens if your competitor lowers their price? What happens if a new competitor figures out a way to market an even lower price? Price wars are never fun and often lead companies out of the market entirely.

If you decide to compete on price, you must make sure that you can always offer a lower price than your competition.

Compete on Audience

To compete on audience means that your target market is going to be different in some way from that of your competitors. Perhaps you have recognized that there is an under-represented part of the market, one that is not currently being addressed by your nearest competitor. Or perhaps there is an alternate use for your product that you think will appeal to a new group of consumers.

Competing on audience requires you to focus your efforts, designing your marketing and product for a specific subset of the larger market. If you can serve them better than your competitor, you might either steal market share or create a new slice of the pie that is yours and yours alone.

Compete on Brand

Branding is a way to establish your company in the market – a way of connecting with customers beyond just your products or prices. Large companies love to compete on brand, and we’re seeing it more and more for well-funded startups.

Competing on brand is an attempt to register your company’s name in the mind of prospective customers, so that when they have a specific need, they think of you. If you are successful, it can lead to success even when your price isn’t the lowest, or your quality isn’t the best.

The problem is that this strategy is often very expensive, and only rarely does it succeed. If you can’t compete on one or more of the other options listed here, attempting to out-brand your competition is incredibly risky.

Compete on Service

Sometimes people just want to do business with a company that is going to treat them well. When your price is not the best, and when the quality of your product is not discernibly better than your competition, you can compete on service.

Companies that compete on service focus on being a pleasure to do business with. This means they make it easier to get support, going out of their way to make their customers’ lives simpler.

Companies that successfully compete on service have grown in recent years, focusing on customer loyalty through a more personal touch.

Compete on Location

We often think of competition on a national, or global scale. But companies can and do compete locally. And you don’t have to have a physical presence to do so.

Using any of the above criteria, you can focus your efforts in one market or another that gives you the best chance to win. This is just like an alternative version of the Compete on Audience concept, except that in this case the distinct criteria about your target market is where they live or work.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, it is important that marketers and business managers of all stripes are aware of the many different ways to compete and succeed in the marketplace. You don’t always have to be the best, or the cheapest, to win business. Your company can succeed if you know what you do well, and focus on making that your competitive advantage.

How to Hire for an Undefined Role

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Hiring is not easy. But it is a critical part of growing a successful business. Time and again we find that the most productive or the most innovative organizations are the ones with highly competent, diverse teams. At the end of the day, it starts with the people in your company.

And hiring is hard enough when you know exactly who you need. When you have a detailed list of tasks and responsibilities that someone will need to do once they get hired, with a clear title and vision for where and how this person fits into the organization, it makes your job much easier.

But what happens when none of those things is true?

Sometimes you just need to hire someone. You know that there are things that need to get done that aren’t, either because you don’t have enough time or enough know-how. Your team is stretched too thin and you need to add another player to meet your growth targets.

Here are a few things you can do to get started:

1. Review Your Strategic Goals

What are you hoping to accomplish this year? What new initiatives do you have planned? How do you plan to grow the business?

These kinds of questions are the ones you will answer in your strategic plan. If you don’t have a strategic plan, I recommend starting there. You need a roadmap that details how you plan to get from A (where you are today) to B (where you want to be in 1-, 5-, and 10- years).

A careful review of your strategic plan will highlight key areas you need to pursue.

2. Look for Gaps on Your Existing Team

Once you have reviewed your strategic plan, you must review your existing team. Match people up with the plan, highlighting their current skill sets and where they can continue to add value.

In most organizations, this will reveal certain gaps. These gaps are areas where you don’t currently have the right people to do the job.

Perhaps there are skills or sets of experiences that your team is missing. This will clue you in to what a new hire should add.

3. Find Out What Peer Companies are Doing

It’s possible that you are working in uncharted territory. Perhaps you have many different gaps and aren’t sure how to prioritize them.

It can help to take a look at what other companies are doing. Look to peers in the industry, even competitors. Find out who they are hiring, and how they are planning to grow and succeed. Often this will open your eyes to the types of positions needed to achieve your goals.

4. Look for Soft Skills

Whenever the hard skills for a position are not well-defined, you will need to rely on soft skills. You are going to look for someone who fits well within your existing culture, someone who is passionate about the company and its mission.

You also want to find someone who has demonstrated the ability to learn and grow professionally. This person should have strong creative thinking skills, as you may end up relying on them to define their role and think up new ways to add value.

5. Hire and Adapt

Hire the best person available and design the role to fit them rather than the other way around. The exact responsibilities that this person has on their list might change over time, but if you have the right person, everything else should fall into place.