Superhero Business: Know Your Customers

As business owners, we can’t delight all potential customers. Businesses who try to please everyone end up pleasing no one. It’s a direct path to mediocrity. A Superhero Business, on the other hand, is laser-focused on its best customers. A Superhero Business knows it can’t delight everyone, so it strives to delight its core customer base. In addition to knowing the demographic profile of its top customers, it also understands its customers at an emotional level: their hopes, dreams, wants, frustrations, and fears. It’s relentless in its obsession to deliver more value for these customers. Incorporating this knowledge into the design of products and services gives these Superhero Businesses a powerful, sustainable competitive advantage. The approach below applies for large businesses and micro businesses, product-based and service-based, for design teams and for sole proprietors trying to improve.

Here are 5 steps to know your customers:

  1. Start by identifying your best customers. These are the customers whom you’d love to build your business around. Typically, they appreciate the value that your business provides. They are profitable customers (oftentimes your most profitable customers). They’re huge fans of your business, and of you.
  2. Be “the friendly, neighborhood” superhero. Much like “your friendly, neighborhood” superhero, the owner of a Superhero Business gets to know its best customers by meeting them face to face. Identify your top customers (Top 10, 20, 50, or 100) and meet them all within the next 12 months; the sooner the better. The size of your business doesn’t matter. When I was an executive at a global multi-national company with over 70,000 employees, our new CEO met with our top 100 customers in his first year. When I ran a smaller business unit with $5 million in sales, I met all of my customers each year.
  3. Give your best customers a voice in your business. Encourage ALL your employees to know these customers, and give them opportunities to do so. With today’s technology it’s easier than ever to have all of your employees connect with customers. One of the most powerful motivational moments is when the employees hear how they have impacted a customer’s life, directly from the customer. Whether it’s a talk or a produced video, the power of seeing and hearing from a customer has a powerful impact on the every employee.
  4. Focus on adding value to these customers. Focus your business improvement and product design efforts on adding more value for these customers. How can your business more effectively address their hopes/wants/fears/frustrations? One tried and true way to do this is to incorporate “avatars” or “personas” into your design process.
  5. Be careful with customer feedback. Often times, customers have insights into how you can improve your business. We are tempted to simply do what our best customers want us to do. The risk with this approach is that it can trap the business into incremental improvements. As Steve Jobs said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” By all means listen to your customers, but don’t be afraid to create something new that’s even better than they can imagine.

To your success,

Alay