In the competitive arts of buying and selling, it’s the people and organisations you sell to, or buy from – customers and suppliers – who provide the interactions and transactions necessary for the survival of an enterprise.

 

It’s a simple fact of business – and it’s as true for telecommunications as it is for any other branch of commerce.

 

Back in the earliest days, when telecom providers and network carriers were thin on the ground, it was a fairly simple situation, as well. Buyers were locked into their closest or most convenient option – and providers could pretty much set their own prices and lay down their own conditions of service.

 

Flash forward to today, and it’s a radically different picture.

 

We’re in a buyer’s market now, with both established enterprises and independent operators vying for the cash in the wallets and purses of a new breed of customer – people who have grown accustomed to a wide variety of choices, affordable prices, top of the line technologies, and stellar service.

 

In this new and ever more competitive environment, business survival depends on distinguishing your business from the rest of the herd (enough to attract a viable customer base), then finding ways to retain the loyalty of your customers. All the while, taking steps to attract new ones.

 

Knowing what your customers need and want is essential to all of this. Fortunately, finding out this information need not be a complex process – as long as you’re asking the right questions.

 

Who Are They?

 

The process of identifying what your customers need begins with identifying who your customers are. This population will typically take in those who have been dealing with your enterprise for some time, those who have bought into your brand recently, and the as yet unknown people whom you’re looking to entice into the fold.

 

For each of the core groups, you’ll need to zoom in to establish those qualities that distinguish the people within them. Categories such as age, gender, family or partnership status, occupation, residential address, area of operation, disposable income, work and outside interests might feature here.

 

Many enterprises now use buyer or customer personas to inform their marketing strategies. These are realistic models of typical people in each target customer group, complete with names, personal histories, work and social circumstances, and personality quirks.

 

They’re intended to give your sales and marketing staff actual people as a basis for constructing promotional materials, messages, and other outreach activities. And the information you gather about the characteristics of your real customers on the ground can help in improving existing buyer personas, or in creating new ones.

 

Why Do They Buy?

 

Knowing who your customers are leads logically to the next step: determining why they opt for the products and services that they habitually buy. A number of factors may influence this, including prices, preferred brands, personal and family requirements, the demands of their work, and the influence of advertising, word of mouth, and social interactions.

 

How Do They Buy?

 

Determining how your customers make their purchases can be an important factor in empowering you to better target your product and service promotions, and in crafting the various channels through which your customers can gain access to what you have to offer.

 

Options to consider might include online or electronic transactions (web sites, eCommerce portals, etc.), ordering over the phone (telemarketing), or physical purchases in actual shops and warehouses.

 

Other factors would include budgetary limitations (do they get paid at a certain time each month, etc.), and the actual proportions of their monthly or annual budget that they set aside for the kinds of products and services that you sell.

 

Where Do They Buy?

 

Customer spending habits extend beyond the methods of payment and budgeting, to include the actual sites and shops where purchases are taking place – so it’s important to establish what these locations are, and how best you can position your business to take advantage of your customers’ habits.

 

If there are online marketplaces that your target customers favour, you’ll need to know this. Likewise with social media channels, company web sites and portals, or actual bricks and mortar shopping outlets.

 

Where Do You Fit Into This?

 

With all this information in hand, you’ll be in a better position to establish how best to insert your own brand and business presence into the various stages of the customer buying journey.

 

This could involve crafting and fine-tuning your promotional materials, acquiring a spot in popular marketplaces, reaching out to customers through their preferred social media channels, or making it easier for buyers to find what they’re looking for, pay for it, and get support and technical assistance when required.

 

And What Do They Think Of You?

 

Feedback, media buzz, and social commentary are all valid indicators of how a brand is doing, in today’s digital market. So you’ll need to keep an eye and an ear open to what’s being said about your business and those of your competitors in the industry, the press, and on social media.

 

And be prepared to respond swiftly and decisively on that feedback – good and bad. Capitalising on what works and improving on what doesn’t will help make you more competitive.