The Importance of Knowing Your Customer

Posted on

Knowing who your customer is is both general, as in the market, and specific, as in the customers you do business with.

You have to know who your customer is to know what they really want, and what they really need.

How do you know who your customer is? How do you know what your customer wants? You Ask!
Well, you do some research. Then you ask. Then you listen.

A coffee shop opened several years ago in the small town I live in. We didn’t have a good coffee shop in town, and there was/is a market for good coffee. The coffee and service was really good. I would stop by a couple of times a week on my way to work. I went to work later than most people, so I didn’t notice their problem for awhile.

I could tell the owner was discouraged one day, so asked her how business was. She started to tell me how bad it was, that she was struggling, and wasn’t sure how long she could keep it open. I asked some questions, and quickly found a big problem. She didn’t open until 8:30 AM. In a small town, where almost everybody commutes for work and are usually on the road long before 8:30 AM. Most that don’t commute are at work by 8:30 AM. When do most people buy coffee? As I asked more questions, I could tell that she didn’t think that this would be a problem for her new coffee shop business. She knew before she started the business that she could not open before 8:30 am. She never took the time to learn who her customer was. Worse, she didn’t provide what they needed once she did find out. The shop didn’t make it. That probably wasn’t the only reason for the business to fail, but not opening for business when the market is doing business definitely did not help sales.

The lesson here is: a business or sales person needs to serve the customer to be successful. You have to serve the customer first, take care of their wants. But, you have to know who the customer is and what the customer needs before you can serve the customer.

Once you know who the customer is, you have to know what they want. Sometimes, what they say they want or need, and what they really want or need are different. You have to ask the customer what they want, and then you have to ask why.

Almost every customer and prospect tells me they want the lowest price. The why tells me that what they really want is the best value. They want the great service at a competitive price. Now, we all know the answers to why do you want the cheapest price, a pretty easy assumption that is usually correct. Asking why opens the dialogue that leads to more questions, like how does that effect your business when X does or does not happen.

Sure, some really do only want the lowest price. You need to know who they are too.

Taking the time to find out what the customer really needs has another benefit. By asking good questions that dig deeper you set yourself apart from the competition. You will be perceived as valuable. That’s because you are providing value.

Do you know your customers?

  • As you may know, I have a reputation. (You can read about it here: However, I “drink my own Kool-Aid”. So, when my phone rings, I answer if I can or when I get an email that asks, “Got a minute?” I typically do. So, this morning, I stop at Shaws because my wife’s nurses want 60 MegaMillions tickets. I was there at 7:45. The store opened at 7. The guy at customer service was filling the instant game tickets. Looks up. “Can I help you.” “I need to buy some tickets.” “We don’t open until 8.” “I’ll wait.” and I leaned against his counter. At least 6 Shaws employees walked by and asked if I was being helped. Every time I said, “He’s too busy.” and gestured toward the guy and his tickets. For some reason, at 6 minutes before 8, the guy comes over and asks, “What would you like, sir?” (I wonder if one of those 6 was the manager?) Maybe Shaws should suggest that when the store opens at 7, the whole store opens at 7 and if an employee has to choose between making a customer wait while they finish what they’re doing, they should make the right choice.?