Real People. Real Stories. Real Business.
Chris Bell

You are NOT Your Customer

Although it’s definitely possible to realise some good success running what is essentially a stumble-upon business, such businesses where opportunities arose directly in line with something you already do as an everyday part of your life have limited growth prospects. Who’s to say you should grow beyond that? I mean some businesses have a small to medium natural size and it shouldn’t be every single business owner’s ambition to implement an exit strategy that has them listing on the stock exchange, for example.

A friend of mine whose printing business is so big these days that he has franchised it with a brand, started out in his final high-school year, when two fellow classmates who spotted the CV he had printed out for himself offered to pay him to have him type up and print theirs as well. Eventually about 25% of the entire school came to him to type up and print CVs for them, making for some events which came with very valuable business lessons that early on.

One such lesson is that of how as a provider of products or services, you are NOT your customer. Sure, you may fall into the typical mould of a buyer of the product or service you are now supplying, but by mere virtue of crossing over to the “other side” and becoming the seller, your thinking naturally starts to change.

There’s not all that much to it and you shouldn’t feel bad in any way about the fact that your commitment to becoming the seller clouds your judgement a bit about what the customer really wants. Taking it back to our school days, my buddy learned this lesson that you are not your customer with his very first “client,” who said to him that she didn’t want a cover for her CV, while the second client said that she did want a cover, but didn’t want any clip-art which featured any people in it, as was the case with my friend’s CV they’d spotted with a picture of a guy using a computer.

If you grow your business then the need to let the market dictate the avatar becomes that much more important, because these days it’s very easy for someone else to replicate your business model, open up shop and even offer the exact same products and services you have on offer.

It’s only businesses the size of the likes of Apple which could claim to know what the customer wants more than the customer, but then again that era perhaps died along with the visionary founder, Steve Jobs.

Ideally, if you’re an established player in the market you’re serving and you have the wholesale buying power of the likes of smoking accessories store, then things become a little easier in that you don’t have to try and figure out exactly what your buying avatar is. You can just carry a wide inventory and then gradually you’ll start to see which products sell more than others.

Either way, what you’ll probably realise is that the products you thought would sell the most aren’t ultimately the ones that do sell the most! Let the market decide.