On the surface, this may seem an obvious question. It’s been one that has been consuming me over the past two days.
I’ve had the privilege of participating as the keynote speaker at a conference of investors and start-up entrepreneurs in Paris the past couple of days. It’s been fascinating to hear of great product and technologies covering a wide range of B2B and B2C solutions. Each entrepreneur is filled with passion about what they are doing.
Each has done a tremendous business analysis, they know their competitors, they have done sophisticated market sizing and market analysis. They’ve done P&L projections. They’re here to convince the VC”s to part with millions of Euros to fund their companies.
As I’ve reviewed the business plans, the gnawing question kept coming up over and over. Who is the customer? When I first posed the question, some thought it was my misunderstanding the French. They patiently explained in English. I replied, “No I understand your market analysis, I understand your targets, but I can’t get a picture of who your customer is and how you are going to get to him. Can you give me a picture of your customer? What type of business is it, what type of person within the business is it, what are they trying to do, what are their passions, how are you going to address those passions?”
I think in our sophistication and business analysis, we too often lose sight of who our customer is. Our customers are people within organizations. They are more than data points and aggregated analysis. They each have a face, they each have aspirations, they have differing needs to buy.
Until we can understand these and begin addressing them, we don’t know who do sell to or how to help them to buy. We have to put a face to our customers, I’ve written in the past about Buyer Personas, but in these reviews the concepts of Buyer Personas has never been more strikingly important.
I discovered something else that is very interesting. Many of the companies presenting are creating web/cloud based services–both targeting consumers and businesses. Some are gaming companies, some are entertainment companies, others have various social media applications. All were focusing on creating intensely personal online experiences forr their customers. What was interesting is these companies had very little idea about who their customers were or how to reach them–there is something about web delivered services–even socially based applications, that seem to make the customer even more distant or unknown. Because they literally never meet or never talk to the customer, they don’t know who the customer. It seems to me, it becomes even more important to be able to put a face to the customer in these cases.
It’s important for everyone in the organization to be clear about who our customers are and how we create value for them. Customers are not just data points. If we don’t know who they are, what drives them and how we are going to reach them, we don’t know how to create a sale. I suspect the issue is more general than with these entrepreneurs I am meeting with. Can you put a face to your customers? Do you know who they are?