Startup Pulse

Why Leading Customers Is Better Than Following Them

Business-to-business (B2B) enterprises have two basic options when it comes to determining the course and direction of their companies. They can either get out front and lead their customers or step back and follow. Look around and you will see both strategies in play. Is one better than the other? Yes. Leading is better than following, any day.

How many companies claim to strive to be leaders in their industries? That is all well and good, but who are they actually trying to lead? A company trying to lead it competitors in one direction or another isn’t necessarily going to improve its own long-term prospects. The company looking to lead its customers will.

Anticipating the Customers’ Needs

The difference between leading and following is clearly illustrated by how a company meets its customers’ needs. Followers wait for customers to make their needs known and then respond accordingly. Leaders do not work that way. They anticipate customer needs ahead of time, doing what is necessary to be ready to meet those needs when they actually arise.

Dallas-based BenefitMall is a perfect example of this point. When the company first got started, their business model was based on payroll and employee benefits. They had the foresight to transition away from payroll in anticipation of their clients needing more assistance in the benefits field. They eventually went one step further by becoming a general agency.

BenefitMall is now in a leading position of being able to connect insurance carriers and brokers. In the months leading up to becoming a general agency, they also developed an online portal for brokers. The portal was ready to go as soon as they made the switch. Now they are able to offer a real solution to brokers looking to take their businesses digital.

Staying Out in Front

Being an industry leader is all about staying out in front. In a practical sense, this means paying close attention to the direction a company’s industry is taking so that its knowledge is always at the cutting edge. Staying out in front also means seeing what is coming down the pike long before it arrives.

Staying out in front leads to having a vision for the future that others in the same industry cannot see. It gives a company a leg up in terms of how it relates to customers. Being out front affords the opportunity of introducing customers to what is coming, before it arrives. This builds excitement and anticipation that ultimately leads to sales.

The opposite of staying out front is lagging behind. Common sense dictates where that leads. A company that lags behind isn’t agile enough to meet customer needs in a timely manner. It isn’t flexible enough to change with its own industry. A lagging company will forever lag if it doesn’t make the effort to get back out front.

Leading Customers Reduces Friction

Savvy business executives know that every industry has its pain points. One of the goals of anticipating customer needs and staying out front is to eliminate those pain points. Where they cannot be eliminated, reducing the amount of friction they cause is the next best thing.

Customers being led along the customer experience journey are less likely to experience pain points. They are less likely to find reasons to be unhappy. And in the end, that is the key to retaining a strong customer base.

Is it better to lead customers or follow behind them? Leading is the way to go. Leading puts your business in charge, giving it the opportunity to serve customers in the best possible way.

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