(Time to read this article is about 2 minutes)

Here’s a fundamental decision that every business needs to make…that most businesses don’t even consider.  That decision is:

Are we trying to get customers to do what we want them to do…


are we 100% committed to helping them do what they want to do?

Comcast, America’s largest cable company, recently settled a lawsuit by the Massachusetts Attorney General in which Comcast was accused of deceptively failing to disclose the full terms of cable contracts that were promoted in their ads.  ‘Additional undisclosed fees’ typically resulted in monthly bills 40% higher than the advertised price.  Comcast has agreed to change their policies, pay $700,000 in customer refunds and forgive debts to over 20,000 customers. 

Here’s our simple 3-step process that has fundamentally changed thousands of businesses to sell more and create fans by defining themselves by how they help. 

Step #1:  Define your business by how you and what you sell help your target customers…not by the products or services you sell.  Be the ‘caring coach’…not the master manipulator. 

Step #2:  Make a complete list of all the help your target customers might need to wisely choose effectively use or thoroughly enjoy the products, services or experiences you sell…and in any way related to doing business with you.  Get your staff to help you with this.  They know stuff.

Step #3:  Determine exactly how you will deliver some of that help wonderfully and profitably… better than your competitors. Be creative; be courageous; be extraordinary!  What are the possibilities?  What has never been done before?   What would disrupt the market and give you an ‘unfair advantage’?

Apparently, it takes some companies longer than others to understand what life’s really like for the people who use their products. After 150 years in business, the folks at Lafarge Cement have finally figured out that lifting the traditional 40kg. (88 pound) bags of cement all day can result in workplace back injuries.  So, they started offering their product in 20 kg. (44 pound) ‘Backsaver’ bags.  It took them 150 years to think like a customer.  WOW!

To make this powerful transformation in your business, first you need to understand who your target customers are and what life’s really like for them.   Here are four simple questions that have helped hundreds of our clients take understanding to a whole new level.  People write entire books on this subject, but we’ve got it down to four simple but powerful questions.  Here they are.

When our target customers are doing business with us and choosing, buying, using, enjoying, maintaining or disposing of what we sell:

  1. What are they really trying to do,
  2. What do they want or need to know,
  3. How do they want to feel…and,
  4. About how much do they expect to pay? 

Set aside 2 hours to sit with a few of the best minds and hearts from various parts of your business and address the four powerful questions listed above.  Think and feel what it’s like to be a customer at every point at which they interact with you and what you sell, in any way, from start to finish.  Get real…go deep!  Then, start listing all the things you will do to help them do what they want to do, know what they need or want to know, feel how they want to feel…all at the price they want to pay.

It all starts with understanding who your target customers are. Here’s an example.  A few years ago, I worked with the management and staff of a high-end hotel just off Orchard Road, Singapore’s most famous shopping street. This hotel needed to get a better understanding of each of their target customer groups in order to create specific and compelling value and experience packages and a clear marketing message for each. 

Up until my time with them, they had lumped all customers into one category…’hotel guests’. But, working together, we came up with 7 distinct customer groups, each quite different in many ways …but each looking for a similar level of ambiance, service and convenience.

Our main ‘target customer’ groups are:

  1. Local business people who want to ___________________________________________.
  2. International business travelers who want to ___________________________________.
  3. Conference and Event Planners who want to ___________________________________.
  4. Families that want to ______________________________________________________.
  5. Local shoppers who want to ________________________________________________.
  6. Overseas shoppers who want to _____________________________________________.
  7. Brides who want to ________________________________________________________.

Defining your target customers not only by who they are, which is the usual way of doing it, but also by what they’re really trying to do, functionally, emotionally and financially, is a simple but powerful tool because it leads you to a higher level of understanding and focuses you on delivering extraordinary customer outcomes.  Outcomes that they want. Outcomes that ‘grab’ your target customers, clearly differentiate you from your competitors, make you ‘famous’…and grow your bottom line.  What would this exercise look like in your business?

So, specifically, what will you do to define your business by how you help your target customers do what they want to do…and when will you start?

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