Your customers are your lifeblood. They build your business, grow your revenue, and promote your brand. However, too many businesses do not focus on the customer and their needs. We think we know what they really want, but do we ever really look through their lenses? Do we ever act as the customer?

In order to know who you are selling or marketing to, you have to understand them. To understand your target audience, you have to live their experiences.

To serve the customer, you must become the customer. Let’s explore.

1. Separate yourself from your product or service.

If you are a business owner, you have a bias towards your own business. That is simply reality. If you are the owner of the business, put together a team or focus group. This team should consist of people who do not know your product or service well and who are not your close friends or family. This group should include a number of different individuals not specifically in your ‘target market’ as your target market may not be what you think it is.

2. Talk to people when you’re out and about.

The other day I was getting my nails done while editing some of my product’s brochure copy. As I was going through it, I came across a few sentences that were questionably ambiguous. To me it made perfect sense, but with my bias of knowing the product so well. To confirm, I asked the woman next to me on what she thought of the copy. It turned out that what I thought was clear, was in fact not so clear to a potential customer

She didn’t know me and had no reason to lie. I got a first hand look of how a complete outsider perceived the brochure and could make appropriate changes because of it.

3. Pull a Richard Branson.

This is one of my all-time favorites. Richard Branson periodically calls in pretending to be a customer just to find out what the Virgin customer experience looks like. This strategy is absolutely one worth doing. It is not being sneaky; it is putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. How are your customers being approached and treated? What emails do they receive? This is the same concept as Undercover Boss.

If you have a smaller team and cannot go incognito, then find someone close to you to go through the process from start to finish.

In conclusion, data can give you a plethora of information, however, you have to get both sides of the story. Quantitative and qualitative data gives you the customer story from start to finish. It is not enough to just know where your customers are coming from, where they live, what kind of dog they have, and where their kids go to school.

Are you really giving them what they need? Are you answering their questions and solving their problems?

Too often, business owners become too far removed from their product or service, as well as the customer experience. To avoid this pitfall, get in the trenches, become a customer, and make changes based on your findings. Your customers and your bottom line will thank you for it.

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