The Secret to Customer Insight

Nov 08, 2010

The trick to building a better business model based on your customer, is customer insight.  Great companies and brands are among the few who truly dedicate their time and energy to learning about their customer: customer empathy, customer appeal, and the relationship between you & your customer.

As a start up, your product should evoke emotion within your customer, make them say to themselves “Finally, someone understands me!”.  This may seem shallow on the outside, but it’s really not.  Because if you have the ability to empathize with your customer and truly understand their needs, chances are you really care about that customer.  At that point, no one should have a better understanding of that customer than you.

The secret to customer insight is by not only caring about your customer, but truly understanding them.  Start by asking yourself the following questions:

What does your customer think?  What does your customer feel?

Days of focus groups are slowly becoming inefficent.  Reason being, what a customer acts like (on the outside), and what they feel like (on the inside) are two very different things.  In my startups, I still conducted focus groups, only with a special twist.  I’d identify my exact customer, make a connection, then form a personal relationship.  Then the fun part…having a few drinks.  That’s when the real pain comes out, that’s when people ramble about their troubles.  That’s when you hear it all.  And I now have alot of great friends as a bonus. 

Days of spending time in your customer’s shoes are whats working.  Think about what really matters to your customer.  Spend a day in their shoes.  Feel what they feel, think what they think.  What fears and worries occupy their mind?  Are they worried about their family or security, or are they worried about the new trends surfacing in the auto industry?  Different customers feel very different things, and think very differently.

What does your customer hear on a daily basis?

To determine what a customer hears, consider their lifestyle.  Who are they around?  What type of people are they around?  This determines what they are likely to hear on a daily basis.  For example, a stay at home mother will hear a completly different message than a working mother.  The stay at home mother is likely to speak to her parents, children, and friends on a daily basis.  The working mother customer speaks to a different group of people: her boss, employeees, clients, etc in her day to day interactions.

How does your customer act?

Things to consider here are how your customer acts, and what their attitude on life is all about.  Notice how your customer acts (their actions) can be very different from the first question, what does your customer feel.  You are at an advantage when you can tell this difference.  Going back to the example of the working mother, she may long to spend more time with her family; but may act like this is not an issue due to her profile in the workforce.  This, again, comes to the point when you know your customer best when you are your customer.  An outsider looking in will only see how the customer acts, not what they feel.  The key is to make the connection between these two, and offer a solution to that.

What does your customer see, what has your customer seen?

Your customers will see many different things, but if you’re targeting a niche market they’re likely to see very common things.  Ask yourself where your customer has been, therefore what have they seen, and what they continue to see.  What does their environment look like?  What type of people are they around?  Do they look out their window and see poverty…or wealth?  Or something in between?

The secret to customer insight is customer empathy.  Feel them.  See them.  Live like them.  Hear them.  Then you can solve their problems.