Customers

When asked, most business owners I have talked to define customers by geography, household size, SIC code, or simple demographics like age and income or heritage.

Those metrics are important but miss the point about understanding customers’ behaviors. Those data further miss the critical top of mind awareness that businesses relate to families of customers. Namely, there are distributors – regardless the industry – influencers and end users. Whether a service distributed entirely over the Internet or toys sold primarily through big box retailers, the triad of customers exist.

My view is all businesses start and end with satisfied customers. So to know what satisfaction means, owners need to know, really know who their customers are what aspects of the service or product is valuable. Said another way, all strategic plans and business efforts begin and end with the customer.

To develop a powerful brand, I believe the brand message needs to be integrated across the entire customer base. If this view is accepted, management will proactively lead the entire company team to deliver the relevant experience. Interestingly, once grasped, this concept frames strategic planning and annual budgeting, topics which will be addressed in the future.

By way of simple example, a toy company must sell kids on how cool and fun it is to have and play with friends. The same messages must be delivered to parents with added compelling support that the play value inherently reinforces appropriate family values. In turn, Sales uses those concepts to convince retailers that the toy line will increase profitability, increase the market, enjoy high sell through and extend the experience to being a company easy to deal with after the selling season.

When I discuss behavior, for small businesses I mean is qualitative terms, not more esoteric psychodynamics large ones study. For example, when had a physician or accountant or lawyer asked you at the end of an appointment about the best / worst aspects of dealing with the practice was? How often do restaurant owners ask you how they could make the experience better rather than how was the food? When was the last time you called your customers – think entire channel – and asked why they buy from you or how you are doing, the good, the bad the ugly?

These impressions need sharing with the entire company team from finance through administration and of course sales and marketing. Then any action to correct course is clearly identified. In this way the concept of brand is brought to life, taken off a written text and created into a physical experience both for customers and employees.

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