Getting Inside Your Customer’s Heads

Photo of a woman shopping in a European arcade.

Have you ever wondered what’s really going on inside your customer’s head? Have you ever thought how in the world did they come up with that one? Are you baffled at why that brilliant new product or service you’re offering is just collecting dust on the shelf?

Well there’s a good chance you may need to have a real “heart to heart” with some of your best customers. Look – I know what you’re thinking, ‘I don’t have time. There’s just so many hours in the day’. But let’s face it, no customers – no money. No money – no business.

When I went to art school the first thing they would “lovingly” drill into our little creative heads is to never ever design for an imaginary person or think that you can design in a vacuum, because it could mean the difference between keeping and losing your job.

One of my first jobs here in New York City, was working in the forecasting office for a very large and well-known catalogue. Within weeks of joining the company, they flew all of us “newbies” out to their central distribution center.

This was a big deal. They paid for everything – I felt like I had made it, corporate credit card and all. LOL!! Now – guess what they had us do for nearly an entire day? Sit next to a customer service rep and listen to phone calls from actual customers.

Yep. They made us sit and listen to customers on the phone – all day. It turned out to be the most insightful thing I did the entire trip & you wouldn’t believe what was the hottest selling item in the entire catalogue. A cheesy sweatshirt on a beautiful model in a photo from 8 years ago!

So what’s the lesson here? It was so important to the company that we had a crystal clear understanding of their customers and what they wanted, that they PAID for us to go out to Ohio and hear it for ourselves.

Sure you can sit in your office & think up all kinds of stuff that you THINK your customers want, but it doesn’t mean anything if they don’t really want it. So how do find out what they want? You ask. Yep that’s right – no rocket science here. . .you just ask.

Now some of you by now, are probably thinking, ‘I’ve been at this for years. They don’t even know what they want – I tell them what they need’. OK – OK so you think you may know a thing or two about your client. But wouldn’t be cool if you could find out even more?

How many times have we heard how someone becomes a “kajilionnaire” because they decided to make the very thing or create the very service that they were looking for and couldn’t find it? And what about Shark Tank?

How many times have the Sharks grilled the unsuspecting entrepreneur on WHO their customer is? How many times have they said they weren’t convinced the aspiring entrepreneurs even knew who they were or what they wanted?

But what if you’re just starting out and you don’t even know where to begin? How do you know what to ask?

Benson Garner offers 8 solid tips for making the most of interviewing/surveying your customers in his blog post for Strategyzer.

Strategyzer was started by Alexander Osterwalder and Alan Smith in 2011, to help business owners work with flexible business model that they could test and pivot as necessary, to make sure that they are giving their customers what they want.

You can read the full post here & learn more about Strategyzer’s Business Model Canvas ( view the video here).

Question: How often do you survey your existing client base and what “surprises” have you discovered in the process?

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