Do You Really Know What Your Customers Need?


To make a long story short, her company designed a device to be smaller and have better battery life than a couple competitors. They were very gung-ho and knew that the new device would give them a competitive advantage.

They got the device into production, started promoting it, and were expecting to see some significant demand. The problem was, they didn’t.

So when Tracy called the conversation went something like this …

“Hey Den – Tracy never uses my full name – you know we launched our new product a few months ago, but sales are pretty disappointing and I can’t figure out exactly why.”

“Can you be more specific?” I said.

Tracy went on to explain, “We released this new product. Before we developed it we knew from our customers and others that they wanted something that was smaller and had better battery life. We were able to work through some technical limitations, but finally figured out how to give them exactly what they wanted…The problem is, sales are decent, but not what we were expecting and I’m really not sure why, we know it’s what they want.”

My first question to Tracy was the question I ask all my clients, “Are you sure you’re targeting the right customers?”

A great irony in marketing is that one of the strongest marketing strategies is also one of the most feared: focusing your effort on some customers and not others. As markets become hypercompetitive and the innovation gap (the difference between the features and benefits of one product compared to others) disappears, failing to define a clear customer target for your product or service is a death sentence.

Successful strategy needs to clearly identify the target customer. It’s not necessary that the target group is small, just well defined and ownable. Many business owners and marketers struggle with the thought of limiting the number of potential customers out of fear that it will hinder their potential success.

In fact, not being super-clear about who your target customer is decreases the likelihood that potential customers will know you’re talking to them. One of the most powerful marketing strategies is defining your customer AND the need your product or service will satisfy for them. If your target audience is too broad, you will need to be more general about the benefit your product or service delivers, and this will leave every customer unsure if your product or service is actually for them.

So the very goal of appealing to a broad audience with the hope of reaching more customers often results in the exact opposite; less customers recognize your product or service is meant for them.

Go ahead and define your ‘ideal’ customer – hyper define them – know who they are, how they live, the types of decisions they make, what exactly their needs are, and make sure they know your product or service is meant for them. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s your best chance for success.