1. Don't try to predict the future by studying the past. Benchmarking against yesterday's competitors does not bring about market leadership. Look for leading, not lagging, indicators. Consider emerging trends.

2. Don't assume that what brings customers in the door will keep them around. Customers may find that the reason they chose you is outweighed by other factors. They may select your product or service because of price, and then switch because of faulty service, billing problems or poor product performance.

3. Make sure you're asking the right questions. Customer satisfaction with the functioning of a product itself doesn't predict market share growth. For example, if a customer thinks your product is the gold standard but can't get it delivered on time, he will look elsewhere. You may miss hidden expectations if you're asking the wrong questions.

4. Be on the lookout for silent trouble spots. The customers who contact you with problems are the ones who are communicating with you, but there may be a silent majority not even bothering to do that. Don't assume that no feedback is good feedback. Seek out input.

5. Listen with objective ears – what’s not being said? Customers may express a strong desire for something familiar without even considering the possibilities that don't yet exist but would be highly successful. Five years ago, consumers bought portable CD players. Today, they buy iPods. Five years from now, what will your customers want?

6. Capture the entire realm of the customer or stakeholder experience. Identify the value of your offerings from the customer’s point of view. Analyze all aspects of the experience, map it and make sure you’re speaking their language. What matters from the outside looking in?

7. Learn to add value and benefits, not simply features. When profit margins shrink, look for the market premium. Add services to products, products to services.

8. Rethink your approach to the market if you're looking to make a change. The competition for your breakthrough product or service lives on a fundamentally different food chain than the competition you've been tracking.

9. Measure twice, cut once. Solid metrics are mandatory for planning, launching and plotting the next course of action. Otherwise, you're shooting before you aim.

10. Good ideas are only as good as the results they achieve. Implementation and engagement are not givens for a successful rollout. Communication, buy-in and follow-up throughout the ranks are crucial to getting where you want to be. Get everyone on the same page.

For more information call Andrea Kates at (713) 622-4880


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