Believe me, this was a question I definitely asked myself a few times before I took this new role. It seems customer “is the hot thing right now” (as one unsuccessful interviewee told me) so there is a risk people look at customer strategy as just a typical internal strategy role with the word customer slapped onto it.
That isn’t what I am doing thankfully.
Lets start with what strategy is. My favourite way to describe it is the Michael Porter classic “Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different”. Strategy in an organisation can come in a number of flavours – it can be group level strategy, where you choose what businesses to be in, it can be channel strategy where you choose how to get your products / services to the consumers / businesses that purchase them, and many others, but it all comes down to choices.
So, if we take that definition and apply the notion of customer, customer strategy is about the choices you make with respect to your customers. These choices can range from what kind of experience you want to deliver, to which customers you want to focus on. It is still a pretty broad definition, but serves as enough of a guideline to understand what it does and doesn’t apply to.
So that is essentially what I am focused on these days – better understanding the customer, so I can help make the right choices with respect to truly meeting their needs. It is a bit of a change from the typically internally focused strategy consulting I have done previously, but it is proving to be pretty fascinating.