Imagine this: you’re scrolling through Instagram and an ad comes up. It’s a Chick-fil-A sandwich, it comes up at dinnertime, and it’s sponsored by DoorDash. The ad says that they’ll bring it to your door, and that the delivery fee for this first one is on them. How did they know you were at home by yourself, you hadn’t had dinner, and you weren’t wanting to go out? How did THEY know you love Chick-Fil-A, and don’t have it often enough (your craving for it always hits you on Sundays..)?
Because you’re their customer. And if you’re not their customer yet, you’re about to be. You just saw an up close picture of a Chick-fil-A Sandwich model, and your mouth is watering, and they said they’d bring it to your house for free, and you’re already in the side door of your fridge checking your sauce inventory. If artificial intelligence is supposed to be taking over the world, it had better hurry, because customer intelligence already has us by the tastebuds.
Why You’re In Business & What To Do When You Forget Your Customer’s Story
Bottom line, you’re in business because someone has a problem. Whether you’re fixing lawn mowers or playing in a rock and roll band, you attract business because you articulate the problem ONLY you can solve (of course other people can solve it, but nobody solves it like you).
If you have any pride at all in your business, you believe this.
Most companies begin their business with a gap. They wanted something themselves, and so they created it. Early in a business’s existence, the company is very in touch with who their customer is and what the problem is. Oftentimes, it’s because they’re their own first customer. Bruce Springsteen, Apple, Patagonia, Nike, and most every other business you admire got their start solving a problem they themselves were having.
They came out to the market and said, “Have you ever felt this way?” They’d felt this way for so long they could articulate it well and with passion and enthusiasm.
Fast forward ten years, and any company with this story has evolved. The person who started the company on a problem they longed to solve has already solved it for themselves a thousand times over. Now they not only have the computer they never had, they have a nice house, three cars, their kids are spoiled rotten, and they’re saving for a golf course retirement in Naples.
They’re no longer the customer they solved a problem for.
Over time, their content becomes more about how great of a company they are, how much experience they have, and why you should choose them. It’s riddled with insider language, the kind you use if you’re removed from the problem and know your company better than you do your customer. This story goes on too much further, and their site becomes a shrine built a bragging right at a time.
But business doesn’t work this way.
It works the way it did when you were first successful. You had a problem and you articulated it and you solved it and you asked, “Have you ever felt this way? Here’s what we did to fix it.”
Customer Intelligence is choosing empathy everyday, walking the proverbial mile in your customer’s shoes, and telling the story of what that felt like. On that mile, you’ll find out what your customer wants, what gets in the way, and where they go for help. Now, you’ll know just where to meet them, and exactly what to say. You might even bring a chicken sandwich.
Data is now easier than ever to collect, and the research must be done on the front end to develop a customer-centered story your customer already knows.
The Customer Intelligence Test
Take inventory of what you think about when you think about your business. If most of your thoughts revolve around you and not your customer, you’re doing it wrong. You didn’t used to think that way. It’s a protective way of doing business, and not a successful one.
Have you developed detailed buyer personas in the last year? Semi-fictional representations of who your product is intended for? For anyone “doing the talking” at your company, they need to know this story like the back of their hand. They need to be updated every year and customer research needs to be at the front of everything you do as a company. If you have a content department that knows their customer’s story well, and tells it at bedtime to their kids every night, you’re succeeding in customer intelligence.
When I worked as a writer at an agency in California, I used to imagine a miniature version of my ideal buyer persona sitting on the edge of my desk, dangling his feet off the ledge. When I was writing, I would pretend I was talking to him. Whenever I’d lose his attention, I would delete back to where I last had it. This is the kind of practice you want at your company. You’ve researched your customer’s world so well, you know what they’ll listen to and what they won’t.
Over time, customer intelligence will inform everything you do as a company. Won’t that be the day when a could-be customer finds you online for the first time and you’re already finishing their sentences for them.