The breakthrough ideas you need to improve your organization aren’t buried under reams of paper or in gigabytes of data. The knowledge and insight you need to thrive in a competitive world is right before your eyes. One catch—you have to leave your office to observe your customers, competitors and suppliers firsthand.
Here’s how to learn from:
Before designing Toyota’s 2004 Sienna minivan, the chief engineer drove in every North American state and province. The experience led to improvements ranging from turning radius and side-wind stability to cup holders and storage products. Those features were much more important for the North American market than in Japan, where trips tend to be much shorter.
Another example: Honda engineers lowered the Accord’s trunk opening after observing drivers struggling to load such heavy items as baby strollers.
Sam Walton learned the value of centralized checkouts in 1951, during a 500-mile bus trip to check out his competitors. “Most everything I’ve done I’ve copied from someone else,” Walton said.
By touring a mini mill that supplied steel bars, one industrial company learned about the waste produced as the steel mix changed during the manufacturing process. With that insight, the company was able to place orders so the mill could fill them more efficiently.
An Amazon.com operations analyst designed a computer program to plot the best “picking path” for warehouse employees filling orders. When he noticed that experienced “pickers” were routing themselves more efficiently than the computer did, he incorporated their knowledge into the program.
Another example: During a weekly “store walk,” The Home Depot’s merchandising group members discovered that store staffers could explain for customers the benefits of each of the nine vacuum cleaners on display. Those staffers, however, could not point out the best carpet cleaner among the 26 products on hand for removing pet stains. Today, the store offers only a dozen carefully positioned carpet cleaners.
The answers to competing and winning business may not be something you can come up with on your own. Get out there and find out what everyone else is doing, what your customers want/need and how others in your industry are climbing to the top.
Get started with learning what your customers want by sending them a quick and simple email survey. For example, a home improvement company used MailPoet email marketing to raise the company’s visibility and improve public perceptions, ultimately providing a competitive advantage and helping to improve their overall sales closing ratio.
MailPoet is an easy-to-use, wordpress plugin that gives you the freedom to fully control your email marketing with out ongoing monthly fees. Combine this with BroncMarketing to easily collect, manage and promote consumer reviews and feedback directly on their website. Both of these tools includes e-mail marketing and survey tools, web-based dashboards, making it easy for businesses to connect with customers, build customer loyalty to improve consumer confidence and increase sales. As well as give you knowledge of what customers are asking for and what they need to give you a more informed decision.