November 12, 2014

Creating opportunities to connect so you don’t become a stranger

by Anjuli Doyle, Entira Associate

How often are you spending time with your customers...and I mean good, genuine, quality time?

In a world where we meet up with one another virtually almost all of the time, there’s tremendous value in making connections face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball. Those touch points are incredibly powerful: They can add a real-world dynamic to a relationship that otherwise exists mostly by email or social media. They can change the tone of sterile, unemotional interactions between your customers and your web interface. And who can argue the benefit of a good old-fashioned handshake in strengthening partnerships?

This we know to be true: The customer’s vantage point is the best vantage point for gleaning knowledge and making yourself a true adviser and partner. You can’t truly know their issues and their mindset if you aren’t standing there beside them. This is our philosophy with market research, and is precisely why we incorporate onsite grower interviews into every project. We go to them, because the best insight is right where they work.

Are you creating opportunities to spend time with your customers, to look them in the eye and really listen to what’s on their minds? In between your phone, email, and web interactions, your customers are managing the challenges and pressures of everyday operations and getting pulled in other directions by your competitors. How much of you are they seeing during this time?

Staying in contact is so important. Your relationship can dissolve in that empty space between interactions if you aren’t careful. Don’t take a quiet period as an indicator you’ve got a satisfied customer. As we discussed in the previous article, Apple proved you can’t always assume you know what’s going on in your customers’ heads. The same is true in any sector of agriculture where the situation can change drastically from month to month. What was working when you walked out of their office the last time may not be working today.

The dairy industry is a perfect example. It wasn’t but a couple of years ago that we were talking doomsday for dairy. Today, the picture looks much different and the U.S. dairy industry appears poised for a comeback. Boosted by record milk prices and lower feed price—and a new and improved safety net through the Milk Pricing Program to help them manage risk—many dairy operations are having a long-overdue good year. So their attitudes and needs are definitely different from what they were two years ago. That’s why now is a good time to pay a visit to the dairy parlor to see firsthand how needs are changing.

Entira is preparing to help companies do just that. As industry forces are creating a more favorable outlook, how are dairy operators’ needs changing? We are preparing to embark on our third research study into the mindsets and patterns of top-tier dairies, because we know how quickly things change; and keeping on top of it is so critical.

In January 2015, Entira will launch, “A New Day for Dairy: Milking It at Mega-Dairies,” a multi-client study to examine the changing forces in the dairy industry. We’ll be meeting face-to-face with dairy managers to assess how they plan to drive their business as we step into 2015 and beyond. Read more about the study. The insight gleaned from this study could help give subscribers a good, solid opening for their ongoing dialogue with dairy producers.

Just because conditions improve and your customers aren’t in panic mode doesn’t mean they aren’t needing something from you. It’s so important for companies to maintain ongoing connections with your customers so that advisory relationship remains solid. The more they see you and hear from you and the more you engage them, the more they’ll grow to count on your expertise. Don’t become a stranger to them.

If you'd like to discuss ways to give new life to your customer relationship strategy, you can contact me at adoyle@entira.net.