C C C C C Customers! Can’t Live Without Them

Big Red Car here. Secret? The Boss’s birthday is today and he’s going to have blueberry pancakes at the Counter Cafe to celebrate.

So The Boss is talking to one of his brilliant young CEOs — absolutely brilliant.

Brilliant CEO says: “We are completely customer centric here.”

The Boss: “I bet you are because you are a brilliant young CEO and you know that a company cannot succeed without customers.”

The Boss asked: “Did you identify your customers and did you solicit their input before you designed your product?”

CEO: “Well, no, not really.”

Boss: “Did you go meet with and demonstrate your product to your customers before you launched your alpha test so you could gauge their initial reaction in person?”

CEO: “Well, no, not really. But we did listen to their feedback after the alpha launch and the beta launch. We’re customer centric.”

Boss: “Did you learn anything that you could have learned by talking to them before you actually launched?”

CEO: “Now that you mention it, yes, we could have learned a substantial amount of everything we learned after the alpha and beta by going to see our customers first.”

Rules of the road

The above little dialogue leads to the formulation of some basic rules.

1. Identify your customers and go visit with them BEFORE you decide what pain point you are going to solve for them. Make sure you ask them: “Does this hurt?”

If it doesn’t hurt, you have no business.

2. Find a group of customers you can use as a gauge — a baseline — for the development of your product. In the Old Days, we used to think of this as a focus group.

3. Go visit your customers where they will actually use the product. See them in their own work space. See how they will actually be sitting when they use your product. Get behind your customers’ eyes when they look at your product. Be the customer.

4. Make your website and your promotional materials a celebration of the customers’ viewpoint and interests. Look at this simple example of messaging.

The Universal Financial Organizer will organize all of your checking accounts, tax information, bills, investments, upcoming payables, credit cards, etc.

“UFC allowed me to take control of my financial life in less than an hour. For the first time in my life, I know financial peace. I am sleeping better and having more satisfying sex…” [The part about the sex is spoofing just trying to see if you’re paying attention.]

 These are two entirely different messages. One comes from the company to the world. It feels like a homework assignment.

The other is the voice of the customer herself providing a simple statement of the product and a testimonial for its efficacy.

Go look at your website and tell me who is doing the talking? [Pro tip: Speak through your customers’ mouths. Other customers will believe them while being skeptical of you. That is life.]

This messaging strategy is purely a mechanical skill and yet very few companies get this right. Go look at the reviews on LL Bean for their flannel lined blue jeans to see how powerful such messaging can be. That is an army.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in constant contact with customers providing a constant stream of information validating why they made the right decision to engage with you and your product as well as sprinkling a little reputation management pixie dust on the conversation. Put them on a winning team. Your team.

6. Seek harsh, unfiltered, native, instinctive feedback. Read all of the bad comments everywhere and imagine it is your mother writing or shouting at you. Fix them. Do not argue with them, fix them.

7. Go see your customers with no agenda. Let them set the agenda. Listen.

8. Only 20% of your customers will become loyal customers. Go see:

What is customer loyalty in the age of the Internet?

Understand the implications of this and act accordingly. You will never “win” this fight, but, that is the raison d’etre that you are the CEO — to lead the fight even if it never ends. Can you be the first company ever to get to 50% loyal customers? Yes, you can. [Not true but you look like you need a challenge.]

That is all for today other than to remind you — no business succeeds without customers and yet many businesses fail to routinely consult with their customers, to see their product through the eyes of their customers. Do not be THAT guy.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. God bless the world. God bless you.


13 thoughts on “C C C C C Customers! Can’t Live Without Them

  1. I had one ‘stuck’ client years ago that I was trying to fix…mature, multi generation, family owned business that sold its products to large retailers in the US…my guess is that you and the readers have seen or used these products. This is no joke: As I was speaking to the exasperated head of sales administration and customer service, she said “If we didn’t have customers to deal with, it would be a lot easier to get our job done.”

    • .
      The enmity toward customers in American business and politics is the greatest barrier to excellence. I see it constantly.

      The failure to consult with customers BEFORE finishing product development is the biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs make.

      Not believing the feedback is way up on the list.


  2. can I download The Universal Financial Organizer for free from a govt website? Available on irs.gov?

  3. Love #6. This advice is perfect for all companies, tech or not. I work as a consultant in public service. I just sent this to a couple of public agency CEOs that I work with. I call myself the troublemaker. I tell them when they are thinking of hiring me that I will be the troublemaker, that I will relentlessly talk about what the customer wants and needs. I love the bit about hearing the complaints in your mother’s voice. Priceless!

  4. Customers are the cheapest form of outside capital. Accountants call it Revenue, Gross Revenue, Gross Sales, or Top line Revenue VCs won’t fund your business with out it. (On the flip side, if you are doing a social media startup, customer growth and acquisition are your revenue-once you get to critical mass you will have to figure out how to monetize them-usually ads)

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