You will never be your customer, and you will never see your company through your customer’s eyes.
Your business is your baby, and your child can do no wrong. Even if your kid does wrong, she probably had a good reason for it. This unconditional spirit is appropriate for a parent, but it becomes a blind spot if you’re a business owner.
No matter how sharp your instincts or how flawless your acumen, you will never see your company as your customer sees it. You can’t. You are far too close. Professor Mark Ritson calls this “The Humility of Marketing.” This is the willingness to know …that you don’t know. You will never be your customer, and you will never see your company through your customer’s eyes.
“Now c’mon, I’ve been doing this a long time and I know what my customer wants.”
“Have you ever asked them?”
“Then you don’t really know. You are guessing. Sometimes you guess right.”
But, sometimes you guess not-so-right. You guess that what went wrong was “the other kid’s fault.” In business, the “other kid” is often “the economy,” or “my sales team is in a slump,” or “my competitor is lying about us.” But, with humility comes the possibility that maaayyyybe your kid does smell funny. And has acne. And burps. An never says “please and thank you.”
“It’s hard to read the label from inside the bottle.” -Roy H. Williams, our head Wiz at Wizard of Ads
The only way to find out what your customer is thinking is to 1) Ask and 2) prepare yourself for answers you may not like. The (somewhat) free website Survey Monkey is one of many that can help you ask your customers. Some ideal questions they recommend include:
1. How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?
This one-through-ten barometer is known as a “Net Promoter Score.” It’s a simple question that yields sophisticated results.
2. Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with our company?
3. Which of the following words would you use to describe our products? Select all that apply.
Good value for money
4. How well do our products meet your needs?
5. How would you rate the quality of the product?
6. How would you rate the value for money of the product?
7. How responsive have we been to your questions or concerns about our products?
8. How long have you been a customer of our company?
9. How likely are you to purchase any of our products again?
10. Do you have any other comments, questions, or concerns?
Those questions are just some examples. You can tailor them however you like. The important part is you ask tough questions and absorb the answers. You’re probably doing a lot of things right, and it’s good to know where you may be going astray.
In an absolutely perfect scenario, you don’t take your product or service to market until you’ve tested and done research. We have left the era of “build a better mousetrap and go sell it,” into the much more productive view of asking people what their problem is first… THEN building the right mousetrap.
“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” – Seth Godin
The difference is profound.
Admittedly, that approach isn’t always available, and you have to sell what you have to sell.
But you can still ask.
Do a focus group.
Most importantly: Find the humility to know that you don’t know.