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Give the customer what they want

This is part of a series of articles that I’m writing about my journey as a business owner. In the nine years since I started, I’ve failed a lot, I’ve learnt a lot, and for sure building a business is much harder than I imagined.

But I’m still learning — every day — and so each day I get better and so does my business, and I’ve realised that is the most important thing.

These articles are about some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Give the customer what they want

Probably the most important six words in business. Almost every company that I have seen succeed has done just that. They’ve found a need, in an under-served group, talked to them and built a business around fulfilling that need.

And every single business I’ve come across, thinks they are doing that, but most aren’t.

Instead, they’re trying to give the customer what they want them to want.
And that doesn’t work.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been guilty of this is in the past, maybe I still am from time to time. It can be a difficult thing to spot.

The problem is, we aim to give the customer what they want, but that ideal then gets compromised by other factors, especially in small companies. Things like; available skills, available resources, the difficulty of delivery or your vision of what the business ‘should’ be.

So, we end up with a watered-down version, that’s really what you want them to want, or worse, what you need them to want — to make your business work.

And they don’t.

Some get lucky, and there is enough overlap between the two. But for most of us, it’s hard; it requires letting go of fallacies, having self-awareness and some painful assessments of our business.

Occasionally, I’ll hear someone refute with “customers don’t know what they want until we show it to them” – I’m sorry, but that’s avoidance, or worse arrogance, not strategy.
It’s a quote from Steve Jobs that’s frequently misinterpreted. Apple never launched a product the customer didn’t want; they just figured out what the customer wanted, before they did.

So, if your desk isn’t full of inbound leads, or you’re finding it hard to connect with potential customers, maybe start by auditing your business with one question: is this really what my customer wants?

Steve Stovold

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