Do you really know your customer ?


Your customer buys from you when you offer the product or service that meets their needs better than any alternative available to them. This makes it really important to know your customer well.


Knowing them individually is a great thing and is possible when you own the corner grocery store. You can get to know their names, the names of their family, when their birthdays are and what type of foods they prefer to buy. You can then tailor your offering to suit their preferences and keep them returning to you.

But if you are targeting a greater number of customers or if it just isn’t possible to build a personal relationship then you need to go about understanding your customers in a different way. It is useful to segment your customers into types or “personas” that represent a buying group. For example, a retail discount chain store might consider some of their customer groups include low-income single parents, retired couples, and large families with a limited budget. They might even name the representative personas as Jill Smith, Mr and Mrs Adams or the Wilson Family.

Through careful research and interviews they can then identify important attributes about the personas such as income bracket, how they learn about products, how they make decisions, how far they are prepared to travel to purchase, what type of products they buy, etc. This helps the whole organisation understand who they are selling to and how to sell to them. It informs purchasing, advertising, placement and many other decisions in running the business.

While large businesses have the resources to do this all the time, smaller business can and should still make the time to try to understand their customers better. Knowing your customers well will mean that you are producing the right product or service for someone that will value it and over time, your offering will evolve to stay in tune with their changing needs.

Some of the questions you can ask include:

What is in the customer’s environment?

  • What do they see every day?
  • Who are the customer’s friends and colleagues?
  • What offers are they exposed to daily?
  • What are the customer’s everyday problems?

What does the customer hear?

  • What do their friends, colleagues, peers, family say?
  • Who influences the customer?
  • What sources do they get their influential information from?

What does the customer think and feel?

  • What is really important to them (not what they say publicly)?
  • What motivates the customer?
  • What are their dreams and aspirations?
  • What does the customer say and do in public?

What are the customer’s problems?

  • What are the customer’s biggest frustrations to achieving their personal or business goals?
  • What obstacles does the customer need to overcome?
  • What risks might prevent the customer from acting?

What makes the customer happy?

  • What does the customer really want to achieve?
  • What does success look like to the customer?
  • What are the customer’s strategies to achieve their goals?

You can ask these questions of yourself if you think you know the customer, but nothing beats sitting down with some representative customers and asking them directly. People loved to be asked about themselves and their interests and it’s amazing what you can learn.

Try it some time.

Here are some case studies for customer focus groups and here are some companies that really value understanding their customers.


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