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What is an outside-in perspective?

There is an inherent contradiction in all organisations – they exist for their customers but spend a disproportionate amount of effort focused internally. An internal focus is essential, however without a customer focus, all sense of purpose can get lost. Businesses that do not focus on their customers risk irrelevance, wasted cost and lost opportunity. Customers have to be part of the story.

An outside-in perspective is required to counteract the bias to inward focus. It is a deliberate activity and approach that aims to drag a business back into focusing on what is going on in the world of their customers. Adopting an outside-in perspective it is not as easy as it sounds. To make it easier, we treat it like the set-up for a movie – with the customer as the protagonist.

Cast of characters: the customer and other actors

Like a movie hero, the customer is not alone – their relationships with the other actors is central to how they feel, what they do and the decisions they make. An outside-in perspective understands these actors and the influence they have on the customer. For business, the influencers will be suppliers, partners and competitors. Consumers are influenced by anyone, from family and friends to trusted intermediaries and government bodies.

Context: the customers’ environment

Stories happen somewhere specific in place and time – they occur in a specific context. Understanding your customers’ context is vital to understanding their actions and preferences. An outside-in perspective deepens understanding of the customers’ context. Context will define business practices and consumer preferences or highlight anxieties such as the distrust of banks in Brazil due to past experiences.

Dilemma: factors affecting the customer

Stories have drama. A movie always has an event that moves the plot forward. For most customers there is a major factor in their lives or work that is influencing their actions and concerns. For business customers it may be new regulation, for consumers it could be interest rates. New technologies and economic trends affect customers. Understanding how these changes affect customers is essential to understanding their perspective.

Experience: the customer experience

Knowing the genre of a movie; adventure, romance, or comedy, does not mean we know exactly how a movie will play out. Similarly, knowing the business; retail, financial or utility and knowing the characteristics of this sector, does not mean we know the specifics or context of the customer story. An outside-in perspective uncovers how customers experience a business in relation to others. Are you a repeat of a tired formula or a refreshing twist on a classic?

Cast, context, dilemma and experience

Imagine pitching a movie concept without knowing the cast of characters, context, dilemma of the audience experience and so on… it is impossible! The same goes for businesses. Knowing your customers, the people in their world and the dilemmas they face will enable you to tell a much better story about where you are heading and how you are going to take customers with you.

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