How well do you know your customer?

"The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing" 
– John Russell

Okay, so it's a fairly cliché statement for business – get to know your customer – but how well do you do it?

Businesses that take the time to understand the specific problems of their customer, typically find themselves doing pretty well. Why? When you understand your customer's problems, it's much easier to create products and services that they want to buy – products and services that solve those problems.

The real challenge therefore isn't in creating great product or service ideas – we're pretty much all good at that – the real challenge, is in finding the problems that products and services are needed to solve. A hundred years ago, people didn't know they needed to replace their horse and coach, until Ford gave them a better option. I didn't know I needed a thousand songs in my pocket until Apple gave me an iPod.

The point is that even as consumers, we often don't know what we want (or need), which is why asking me what I want is usually a pretty pointless exercise, answered most often with the commercially useless: 'a lower price'.

But we all have opportunities to learn more about our customers, which ultimately helps to reveal where their real problems lie. Chatting to a future Ford customer back in the day might have elicited a comment like; 'I can't stand having to sit up top to drive the horses while my family rides in comfort inside the coach'. Apple's unwitting future buyers might have raved about their Sony Discman only to casually remark, 'I just wish it could play 10 CD's.'

If you're wondering what you could be doing to create more sales, start by talking to your customers. Get to know them, and you'll soon find plenty of ways help them. Then they can help you.