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So far this week, we’ve focused on you and your identity as a business. Now it’s time to do something every bit as critical and just as important, if not more so: focus on your customer.

Something that continues to amaze me is how easy (and common) it is for businesses to lose touch with their customers and clients. Just as you must know your own identity, you must also get clear on the identity of your customer. This is both harder and easier than it sounds. Customers are diverse, which is why it seems to be a daunting task to keep in touch with who they are. That being said, it is critical to look for and discover the common factors in your customers that are keys to the big question: why are they buying from you?

One of the easiest – and most often overlooked – means of getting to that answer is to very simply ask the question. When was the last time you got a list of some of your best customers and called to ask them, out of the clear blue sky, “Why did you buy?”

Let me guarantee you something. If it’s been a while since you’ve done something like this, you may have some ideas about what they’ll say, but the answers will surprise you. You will learn something. And what you learn will be important.

The fact is, we tend to give lip service to the idea of listening to our customers. Listening to and getting to know them is something that occurs only deliberately and with focused, intentional effort. It’s a lot like a marriage. If it’s going to last, it’s going to take work. Sometimes it’s easier to let customers slip away due to neglect than it is to face the painful fact that they may tell you something that you don’t want to hear. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather hear that thing I don’t want to hear because I asked than by letting them speak with their dollars.

I may have to give up my pet project that is missing the mark. But, when there’s a good match between my identity (which I’m hopefully now clear on) and what the customers are begging for, shouldn’t that be my pet project anyway?

More on this subject next time…