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Know Thy Self and Thy Customer: Part One

Aug 02, 2010

Part 1: Know Thyself

Many businesses often focus so much on their products and day-to-day running of their business that they lose sight of the customers they wish to serve with their products/services. 

Sometimes, a business with the best intentions makes assumptions of what their customers want without actually knowing.  This haphazard approach omitting market research is a gamble businesses don’t need to be making.

Twice in the last half century we’ve seen the American auto industry struggle for survival because they have lost focus on what really is important to their identified market and instead focused on what American car makers perceived as product qualities important to their customers.  The auto industry as a whole is very good at understanding who their customers are and targeting them, but when it blunders, those blunders are obvious to many stakeholders, including investors and even tax payers if they end up supporting businesses.

Taking the time to learn what your customers’ problems/needs are is an important first step.  There are many methods, each more appropriate to certain markets/customers.  These may range from surveys to focus groups or simply talking to existing and potential clients.

Probably the next natural step is prioritizing customers’ needs in terms of both perceived value and your ability to economically meet those needs to make a profit.  If it will draw important resources and the customer will only casually notice the benefit (and thus not substantially pay for the benefit) it may not be worth your while.  On the other hand, you might recognize that with only a slight modification to your product/service, you can substantially impact a customer’s life or business.   As you discover opportunities, remember to keep your eyes on the horizon for other new opportunities as well as threats, such as a competitor being able to imitate or even improve upon what you were able to provide to your customers.

This brings us to the next and equally important focus of this post: knowing yourself which continued as part two in the next blog.

Category: Business Planning

Jim Drever

Jim Drever is a counselor with the Wyoming SBDC.

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