Want to stand out in your industry? Bring it back to basics: start by knowing your customer. Properly.


Focus Creative’s head of customer insight Ellie Moss on how companies can get ahead by adopting a customer mindset.

What enables a company to stand out in a challenging market and achieve unprecedented success? It always comes back to a company’s ability to compellingly position its product. The success stories out there all know their customers so well that they can craft an offering differentiated from any other, that uniquely resonates with “their people”.

Differentiation has never been so important. Markets are seeing unprecedented levels of change and disruption. Many industries are experiencing higher costs at the same time as contracting customer spending. Ongoing cautiousness due to falling house prices is having an impact on crucial economy sign-post industries such as construction. But, as history has proven, challenging times also offer great opportunity. In a period of uncertainty, many companies will tighten their belts, enter a holding pattern and communicate the same messages. White noise. Think about your industry: is anyone saying anything new? Are you?

Here’s the secret sauce when defining “something different” to say: know your customers well. And by that, I mean really, really well. Understand your customers - their hopes, their fears, their ambitions and their anxieties - and you can speak directly to them, in their language, about something they actually want to hear.

Let’s look at five ways to get to know your customer as well as you know the Uber Eats menu after a big weekend.

1. Drop assumptions and start empathizing.

We all have preconceived ideas about who our customers are. Put these assumptions aside and instead put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Observe them, ask open-ended questions and actively listen to their answers. What do they hear, do, see, say and feel?

2. Digest your data

Data is ubiquitous - it is everywhere and ever-growing. But data is a raw material and, as with any raw material, it’s only useful once it has been correctly processed. We should all become better at listening to the narrative coming from data. We tend to only hear the story we want the data to tell us, instead of letting the data tell us its own story.

3. Get dirty at the coalface

Talk to your frontline employees. They have contact with your customers all day, every day. Even better, spend a few days at the coalface directly interacting with your customers. You’ll hear yourself what they say and understand how they feel.

4. Join the community

Nearly all industries and businesses have a related virtual community giving customers the chance to talk to like-minded people. The online world has enabled and nurtured a plethora of forums, on all topics from pet grooming to home buying. Online communities are a great place to mine textured insight about your customers.

5. Give your insight a face

Take all the knowledge you have about your customers and create personas for each target group. Personas can include demographic information, but the most powerful ones focus on your customers’ behaviours and mindset. What does your customer do, and why? What motivates them? What are their pain points? I’d suggest no more than five personas, with the sweet spot usually between three and five.

Truly understanding your customers is always a challenge, but it’s worth the investment. Only when you deeply know your customers can you establish a positioning that has the potential to set your business apart in any market, no matter how challenging, and pave the way for long-term success.

Focus Creative