While the U.S. economy is on its longest tear in history, agriculture is railing in tumult. With a late crop, high prevented plant acres and unknowns related to trade and markets, agricultural retailers and other ag vendors must innovate now more than ever by looking ahead to the customer of the future. To do that, look at the future with the customer.
The tools I’m sharing apply to every business in every kind of economy. In fact, it is the lack of innovation that brings about recession in many industries. Tough times beget new value.
Like Coach Lombardi who retaught the basics of football each year, organizations should regularly have dialogue focused on the four core areas of strategic thinking. Consider getting your most strategic thinkers around a table and having an in-depth discussion of each of the four areas in the graphic below.
These simple questions often point out that getting agreement and clarity on the answers aren’t so simple.
A required step in strategy is the quarterly interviewing of customers through what are called depth interviews. Ideally using a third party, you want to ask your customers not so much about how you are doing—that’s quantitative research—but more about what potentials could be—qualitative research. You don’t want conversations focused too much on the obvious challenging times but more on customers’ vision, direction and goals and how you might work to get there.
Executing what Peter Drucker called one of the most important parts of strategy can be worth millions.
Working with one client, we found and realized more than $30 million in incremental sales within 12 months of beginning the strategy process and required depth interviews. For even smaller seven-figure firms, I have seen the process yield seven figures of return.
The key is to ask this—“How can we help you grow your business?” Then, do it in a way focused on innovation, not price breaks and gimmicks. Interview three groups of customers: the champions, the chumps and the on-the-stumps. The first group will sing praises and give testimonials, the second group are the lost customers, and the third group are customers looking at purchasing new or additional products or services.
Follow the steps of strategy, have great customer conversations, and you and your customers will grow together.