One of the most important strategic moves any organization can make, regardless if it’s a corporate giant or a solo consultancy, is to be able to harness the power of the new media tools to know and understand what clients are thinking. And wanting. And buying. And value. This new data should drive your definition of customer value and set the stage to communicate with them.

In just the past five years new communication tools have appeared and redefined how we gather, communicate and interact with customers in exciting new ways. Social web outlets allow both business customers and consumers alike access to deep information that used to take days if not weeks to gather. To stay in step with today’s fast market pace requires continuous attention. Here are a few guidelines that should help keep you on track.

1) Create a true transparency between you and your customers. One quick way to accomplish this is to make it easy for customers to gain access to your executives, managers and employees. Expose your executives, directors and managers to the buying public. I recently noted Wal-Mart’s CEO often visits customers in their homes to gain a deeper sense of how their customers live and what they need. That’s an interesting concept to explore for businesses that feel they have grown out of touch with their customers and markets.

2) Analyze your customer’s buying habits. Are they buying from your competitors? What type of services do they place the highest value? By placing your company’s messages online and in forums you can gather this type of critical information that will help you better understand what value your company has to offer.

3) Link your target marketing back to your research cue. What I mean by this is it’s great you are marketing your products and services, but a critical question is, how much of that marketing data is coming back to your internal analysis cue? Have you setup a systematic way to gather pertinent data that can be compiled to determine new views and trends?

4) The CMO in your organization should be gathering this information and working with your CFO to determine best strategies. Sometimes the work of gathering and analysis does not fit into the every day schedules of busy executives. I understand this daily pressure all too well. If that’s the case, then outsource this part of the process to come up to speed on what your customers are saying about you, your competition, your marketplace and the related market data you need to stay in touch with your customers.

Smart marketers will build the above four concepts into their ongoing marketing communications so they can more intelligently mix it with their financial considerations. Questions such as:

  • How large should our marketing budget be?
  • How much emphasis should we place on each of our specific products?
  • Which products should we invest in heavily to bring to market and which ones should we lose altogether?

These and many other related questions are more easily answered if a customer value definition has been formulated. Perhaps that’s the most important value of all: knowing your customers so well that you can project what they will and will not purchase from you this year and next.