thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Transforming Your Customers

By on May 12, 2010

Dafodil_lrgCan you be customer-centered and not want all customers? Yes, but it is not simply about arrogantly rejecting certain types of customers. Instead, it involves defining the most desirable behaviors in the community of customers that you serve and guiding your current and future customers to grow in ways that will galvanize the relationship. Customer-centricity is not only about reactivity to customer needs. It is also predicated on proactively transforming your customers by empowering them in their relationship with your organization.

Years ago, Peter Drucker famously said, “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” In 2010, however, this concept has taken on another level of meaning, because companies can actually create the types of customers that they best connect with. Today, the process should happen this way:

  1. You develop a proactive, customer-centered business, which is focused on making its customers better
  2. You identify the customers that really connect with this business model and that are most likely to challenge you (in a good way) to higher performance
  3. You create and attract more like them (by convincing others to enjoy what you are providing)

Steve Knox, CEO of P&G’s buzz-marketing division, Tremor, quoted in Good for Business, believes “A true relationship requires shared values. We are not seeking a relationship with all our customers, just with those connectors who make sense for our business.” Connectors can be defined by what they do and how they act--not who they are or how much they buy. They are the ones who actively want to become engaged with your organization. Therefore, develop your own customer-centered culture and shared values, show it to customers at every touch-point, and then connect with those customers who appreciate those values and want to grow the relationship.

Really great customers are the ones that are looking to develop closer relationships with their suppliers as partners. Consider the brilliance of Maker’s Mark Bourbon ( in creating its Ambassadors Program. It goes far beyond an arms-length sales transaction to engage certain customers as “club members” that receive regular mailings of creative ideas that are fun and just waiting to be shared with friends and family. My wife loves the Ambassadors Program and has received business cards, wrapping paper and even a certificate for a barrel of bourbon that was named for her. (Too bad they couldn’t ship the barrel itself).

Success today and in the future depends not on serving anyone who will buy from you. Rather, it means having empathy with the ideal customer behaviors and attracting more customers like your best customers—those who appreciate your values and see them as extraordinary.

Here’s how to transform your customers: Consistently introduce them to the unexpected. Shower them with new products, services, fun approaches, great information, and creative ideas. They will wind up not only enjoying the ride, but expecting this type of relationship from their other suppliers. Most of these suppliers will not be able to provide this level of experience, but that just makes them look bad and you look better.

Customer-centricity has a benefit that most organizations don’t fully understand and don’t fully utilize. It is understanding, at a deep level, what your ideal customers do, how they behave, and the personality traits that you want to encourage in them. This knowledge gives you the ability to shape your deliverables so that they will develop existing customers and attract new customers who are “cut from the same cloth.” These are the customers who transcend simply buying from you in order to become ones who really connect with you.


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