Learning from your Customers

This is part of my blog series on using the principles of Demand Drive MRP and its five primary components. This particular blog focuses around Strategic Inventory Positioning or in the marketing sense, positioning your organization to learn from your customers.

In DDMRP, Strategic Inventory Positioning The first question of effective inventory management is not “How much inventor)’ should we have?” Nor is it “When should we make or buy something” The most fundamental question to ask in today’s manufacturing environments is, “Given our system and environment, where should we position inventory (within BOMs and the facilities) to have the best protection?” Think of inventory as a breakwall to protect boats in a marina from the roughness of incoming waves. Out on the open ocean, the breakwalls have to be 50 to 100 feet tall, but in a small lake, the breakwalls are only a couple feet tall. In a glassy smooth pond, no breakwall is necessary. A company will need to carefully analyze its environment and then position and build the necessary inventory breakwalls.

The above is from the Orlicky’s Material Requirements Planning 3/E. written by my recent podcast (Enjoy the Podcast) guest Carol Ptak and Chad Smith of the Demand Driven Institute.

In sales and marketing we can use the same breakwall analogy. The further we are from our customers’ knowledge base the more effort has to be made to create a larger and larger supply of prospects. The ability to share and create knowledge with your customer is the strongest marketing tool possible. Successful Sales and Marketing are no longer trying to get their message out but developing strategies to get the message in.

You hear a lot of talk about touch points and increased efforts within an organization that I elaborated on in the blog post, If all of us need to be marketers, what’s the framework?. These increased touch-points are very relevant in today’s marketing but you need to stop looking at them from your perspective. Have you spent the time investigating your customers’ touch-points? Look at where and how they distribute their knowledge. When you think from the SD-Logic (The Service-Dominant Logic of Marketing by Stephen Vargo and Robert Lusch) perspective of value in use, use the touch-points created by the use of your product, you will extend your conversation and add insights about not only your customer but your product/service.

Taking this information and spreading it within your organization will make it easier for customers to go deeper into your organization for knowledge sharing. As a result, it will provide a flood of new ideas for innovation and co-creation opportunities. But even more importantly it secures a vendor-customer relationship or partnership that is difficult for others to replicate.

This cannot be done unless we take on the role of pupil. Which I have discussed in a few blog posts:

But before you begin teaching the customer what they need to know, start thinking of this process a little differently. Think of it as you being the pupil rather than the teacher. Think about you having that “aha” moment or that moment when you “get it” versus when your customer gets it.

I went on to say:

Instead participate in communities and discussions that highlight your knowledge, developing an ever expanding network of touch points that allow prospects to self-serve information and to locate you. Think of ways for trials or templates of your organizations best practices to be used that will allow prospects to move into a more collaborative arrangement. As this happens, greater human interaction occurs but typically as a result of the customer qualifying themselves.

If you view your sales and marketing from this position it will create vast opportunities not only in sales but throughout the rest of the organization.. There is not a stronger differentiator for your company to acquire. A Lean Marketing measurement is how deep and widespread can a customer penetrate your organization.

Related Information:
What Sales and Marketing can learn from Demand Driven Manufacturing
Is Orlicky’s MRP relevant today? Think DDMRP
The Subservient Marketing Funnel
Servant Leadership in the Toyota Culture
Can anyone truly understand and empathize with another?
Four Star General on Leadership–Listen, Learn…

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