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Learn From Your Customers, Not Your Competition

Often we obsess over what other people are doing. I was on Linkedin recently and got a notification that an old workmate was now the creative director of an international agency, working out of New York. I found myself comparing my situation with his, wondering if maybe I should’ve taken the offer to work there years ago. Suddenly a seed of self doubt is planted. By focusing on unknowns, I run the risk of not being present and missing the opportunities that are right in front of me. It can be the same in business. We can spend too much time focused on our competitors, what they are doing, what new products or services they have, or how they are marketing themselves.

Take on Your Customer’s Problems, Rather Than Your Competition

What if we reframed what we are competing against? Instead of focussing on taking down your direct competition, take on the problems your customers are facing. This gives your business the opportunity to provide solutions not yet offered in your industry.

The pitfalls of focusing on our competitors can have a big impact on business success. For products, you run the risk of only slightly improving on what the competition is doing, or worse, slightly improving on something people may not have even liked in the first place. The time spent worrying about the competition is time that could be spent immersing yourself in your customer’s world and uncovering insights and opportunities the competition has missed.

Now we’ve freed up some time, we can now obsess over the right audience: our customers and the problems they face.

Now we are Focused on Customers, What Next?

A great place to start is to redefine what you’re selling. Rather than seeing your offering as just products or services, view them as a way of helping customers achieve the bigger job they are trying to get done. This approach allows you to relieve a customer’s pain points in undertaking the job, rather than one individuals unique personality.

Ask these questions: What experiences will help customers make the progress they’re seeking in a given circumstance? What obstacles must be removed? What are the social, emotional, and functional aspects of the job?

To understand your audience requires listening to them… really listening. Not just online surveys and net promoter scores, but actually sitting down with them and learning about them as people. Utilising face to face interviews and observation techniques allow you to gain greater understanding of the problems and frustrations they face in their everyday life. It gives you an opportunity to probe deeper than a yes or no answer and learn about what motivates them to hire your product or service. to help them with the task they are trying to achieve.

Interviews also provide a way to uncover the experiences they have before and after coming into contact with your product or service, not just at the moment you’ve engaged them. See it as a journey they are on to achieving a task or goal. Identify the moments along this journey where obstacles or frustrations can be removed. This opens opportunities to identify small but powerful ideas for innovation that can be executed simply, yet deliver substantial results. Too often innovation is discussed behind closed doors, focusing on big revolutionary ideas that rarely, if ever, see the light of day. By using insights gained from interviews, you can deliver ideas and improvements that provide real value to your customer.

The Main Point

By focusing on learning about your customers, solving their problems and creating a great experience for them you’ll win repeat visits, repeat purchases, and word-of-mouth referrals – leaving your competition focused on you.

By Rusty Benson | Director

Image by Priscilla Du Preez