The most basic ingredient to a business person’s success or failure is his/her ability to define their customer. Defining one’s customer is critical before a business relationship can truly be developed. Unfortunately, the most common mistake is too narrow of a definition. The two key questions to remember when defining your customers are: (1) who are my customers and (2) how do I maximize the customer impact?
Historically, the term “customer” immediately represented the end user. This was the person or company purchasing whatever item or service you are selling. Although this individual or company is your customer; would this demographic be your only customer? The common response is yes. The accurate response is no. This demographic would represent the external customer. However, defining the internal customers is equally as critical an ingredient to one’s success.
The internal customer could be a vendor, supplier, internal support staff, etc. It is someone that performs an important function to meet the requirements of your external customer. The key element in the defining both customers are identifying their impact on one another.
For success, one must consistently deliver a “value-added proposition” to both customers. Therefore, it is important to never make assumptions on the needs of the customer. Constantly ask the second and third level questions. When identifying the needs of the customer, it is imperative to understand the reasoning behind the needs. This level of understanding is what will differentiate you from others and could ultimately provide you the competitive advantage necessary to develop a long-lasting business partnership.
The process and discovery required in defining a customer can be frustrating at times. Typically one simply wants to make the quick assumptions to start generating business versus investing the time and energy to fully understand the customer’s needs. Although the assumption approach may generate the quicker income, often the relationship quickly tumbles resulting in a huge opportunity cost. Therefore, remember…….don’t step over a dollar to pick up a nickel.
True success is not a sprint but a marathon. Those who have been less impacted by the current economic environment are (for the most part) those who have truly invested in defining their customers.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.