Listen up, maggots. We’ve received reliable intel that a large new customer group has emerged and assembled somewhere near Checkpoint Action. Our mission is to engage this group and liberate their product needs before they fall under enemy control.
Let’s face it: Reaching a new customer group can be a daunting task because, in many ways, you don’t know where you’re going. Fortunately, there are some fundamental principles that can guide your way.
As a young man, I spent four years in the Army Reserves (for you American readers, that’s similar to the National Guard). One of the skills I was taught during this time was navigation. It’s funny how some things you learn when you’re young continue to show up again and again in your life. As someone who’s built a career around efficiently finding new customers, I’m amazed at just how much those navigation lessons have stuck with me.
And that’s really what this post is all about—the simple yet seismic realization that navigation is navigation, regardless of whether your objective is an enemy installation or a new group of customers. When you realize that, managing your journey becomes much clearer.
Acquiring new customers is dependent on successfully executing a singular goal: making connections. No matter the product, your company must communicate with (and deliver value to) a customer. To achieve this, a connection must be made, and to make a connection, companies must navigate through the complexity and chaos of modern communication and sales channels.
So, let’s talk for a moment about navigation and what it entails.
The Fundamentals of Navigation
Navigation is about managing uncertainty and putting your trust in a method when your objective can not be seen. Whether you’re navigating a physical landscape or navigating a new market, success relies on executing four fundamental actions:
1. Understanding where you are.
Orientating yourself to your surroundings is always the first step. Getting this part right is critical, because it provides the foundation for your journey. It allows you to utilize the tools you’ll need to reach your objective. Failure to understand where you are means you won’t reach your objective.
In business, this step represents an understanding of your market and your place within it. It represents a clear value proposition, knowing your competition, understanding sales cycles, being aware of regulations, etc. Again, you will not reach your objective if you do not clearly understand your starting point.
2. Designing an effective and efficient route.
An effective route is easy to define: It is simply any route that will get you to the desired destination.
When seeking an efficient route, however, you have to take into consideration the resources required to reach that destination. In this context, efficiency implies choosing a path of least resistance. How can you and your team reach your objective while expending minimal resources? If you’re traveling overland without roads, you must consider the obstacles between you and your objective, which will impede progress. And unless you’re crossing a desert, your route will not follow a straight line.
When targeting a new group of customers, efficiency is also paramount. Chances are that you do not have unlimited resources, so every decision regarding messaging and channel selection must be well-considered. Think of it like this: If your competition can connect with this new group of customers as effectively as you, but they can do so more efficiently (more quickly and/or for a lower cost), then they will ultimately win this business, and you will be left with not much to show for all those resources you’ve expended.
3. Establishing checkpoints to monitor your progress and correct course.
Even if you have a detailed map and a functioning compass, it is still surprisingly easy to get lost when there are no paths, and only trees in front of you. Even a well-seasoned navigator will tell you that executing in the field is much different than planning in an office. There are many things that can throw you off course. Obstacles that don’t appear on the map, unexpected encounters with wildlife, human error, and more can throw you off of your bearing without you even knowing.
Complicating things further is the fact that when you get knocked off course even by a small amount, that error becomes exaggerated with distance. Falling off your bearing by 2-3 degrees may not matter much if you’re only going 100 meters. But if you’re going 10 miles, a small error becomes a huge mistake.
It is for this reason that we utilize something called a checkpoint. Think of a checkpoint as a sub-objective to be reached along the way between your starting point and your main objective. Any complicated or long-distance navigation will involve multiple checkpoints.
A checkpoint serves to close the distance and reduce the time in which you’re operating in an uncertain environment. When you’re trying to reach a new market, you must successfully navigate a series of checkpoints as well. These checkpoints are related to the customer journey and may include the following: Awareness, interest, desire, action, and satisfaction. An organization must have the tools and processes to navigate to these checkpoints and determine when they’ve arrived. They must have access to quality data, as well as established metrics to interpret it and established benchmarks to reveal whether they’ve arrived at their checkpoint or need to keep working to find it.
4. Recognizing when you’ve arrived at your objective.
Sometimes, if you’ve not seen your objective before, it can be difficult to determine when you’ve arrived. It’s not uncommon for expectation to differ from reality. That is why it’s important to have a plan to understand when you’ve arrived at your destination (or when you’re lost).
In a lot of ways, this takes us back to the first step—orienting yourself to your surroundings, getting the lay of the land, and interpreting the signs around you to figure out how far you’ve come.
If you’ve carried out each of the preceding steps successfully according to the metrics and benchmarks you’ve established, then you should be seeing some transactions from the new customer group. If not, you may need to reexamine your value proposition and pricing.
Assuming you’ve reached your objective, and connected with the new customer group, focus can shift to optimizing for transactions and improving customer experience.
When I learned navigation in the army, it was with a map and a compass. I’m sure the course is taught differently today, considering the advancements in GPS technology, yet I’m grateful to have been taught using those basic, timeless tools. I’m grateful because I was taught a framework, within which I was forced to think critically. I’m grateful to have operated with military precision.
As marketers today, we have all manner of digital tools at our disposal. So many in fact that it can feel overwhelming. I feel that what marketers often miss today is not more tools, more integration, or more data but rather a broad understanding of how the big pieces of customer acquisition fit together.
At Lenses and Levers, we help companies see the forest and the trees. Our Lean-Agile approach prioritizes sound processes, empowered teams, and continuous improvement. We don’t offer short cuts, just the most effective and efficient route to your objective.
If this sounds appealing, we’d love to chat and invite you to reach out at any time and say hello.