Blue Ferret Content Consulting

The Punishment for Thinking You're the Customer

Your business dies.

There. That's it. That's the punishment. The End.

Okay, I might need to explain this a bit more.


You Are NOT Your Customer

How many times have you heard something like this?

"Oh, our customers will like this [feature/tool/service]. I like it, so I'm sure they will too."

That, dear reader, is the 'Out of Touch' bell.

I tend to think it comes from a combination of ignorance and ego.

Ignorance of customer desires is not a crime. It's quite common in fact. And it's 100% solvable - by doing audience research.

You know how to do this. Talk with people in your target audience. Read social media posts. Run surveys. Conduct interviews/focus groups.

You can do most research totally free. It just takes a little time to do properly.

And that's why most businesses won't do it. It takes time. Time they want to spend on other things...things they think will make them money.

They don't realize (or won't accept) that knowing their customer well makes them more money than ANYTHING else.

This is where ego comes in.

If you don't know something, you can either go learn it, or ignore it.

Why ignore it? You're choosing to remain ignorant.

Because if you don't ignore it, then you have to face - briefly - the truth of being ignorant.

Ego doesn't like that. Ego wants you to believe you're perfect. You already know everything there is to know.

When it comes to customer desires, Ego likes to whisper something like this:

"Your customers are like you, aren't they? Smart, professional, totally rational and not at all egotistical. Just like you. So you already know what they like, don't you? Because you know what you like..."


Monkey with the 'Seriously?' Face Best result for "The 'Seriously?' Face" I came across.


This is an absolute death-blow to marketing efforts. All efforts - email, or content, or advertising.


When You Assume What Customers Want, You're Pushing Them Away

Whether it's from ignorance or ego, assuming you know what customers want does one thing. It offends those customers.

Why? Well, let's take an example.

Say I'm a product manager at a startup. My team's struggling with an old, out-of-date time tracking platform. I need to get us a new one. Simple, right?

I do some searches, read some reviews, and settle on two choices, A and B.

Which do I choose? Platform B, of course.

It spoke to my desires, not the maker's. The makers of Platform A only care about themselves. They didn't bother to address my desires...maybe they figured they didn't have to consider them.

As a customer, that means they won't care about my input or questions. It's not 'offensive' per se, but the lack of empathy sends me away.

This is just one small example, but you can see what I'm getting at. Assuming you know what your customer wants can & does backfire on you. Badly.

Repelling customers like the digital equivalent of 'way too much cologne' pushes them away. Where do they go then? Into the arms of your competition. The competitors who paid attention to customer needs, and built their content accordingly.

(And remember..."Do Nothing" is a competitor too. Always is.)

So how you do sidestep this problem? What's the best way to avoid assuming you know what customers want?


Solution: Keep Reminding Yourself, and Talk to Customers Often

Here's two options. Use one or both.


OPTION 1: Write "You are Not Your Customer" everywhere you'll see it.

On your desktop, Post-Its, wall hanging, on your eyelids (okay maybe not that one).

You'll get sick of this phrase. You'll hate the notion of calling up a customer, or emailing requests out.

Do it anyway.

If you keep reminding yourself, it eventually sticks. (For most people.)


OPTION 2: Get a 'Customer Buddy' if you can.

This is a regular customer who you trust to give honest feedback. If you're off on something, you know they'll bring it up. Talk with the Customer Buddy whenever you're thinking of a strategic change to the business - new marketing campaigns, pivots, content change, etc.

I've worked with hundreds of customers over the years. The ones whose businesses thrived all had a customer buddy.

One example: Back in 2014, I worked with a small parts manufacturer in central CA. Good people, solid products. But they faced a big challenge - overseas competitors undercutting them on price, to take over the industry.

The CEO fretted about the situation. I asked him what his customers thought. He waved his hand and said they all thought 'like I do.'

I asked him if he was sure of that.

It caught him off guard. He had to stop and think. We talked a minute, and then he admitted, no, he wasn't sure.

So I asked him if he had a customer he could talk to about their current needs. One came right to mind…a longtime customer the CEO even considered a friend.

Call him up, I told him. Talk a bit. Level with him. You're worried, you have a bad situation, and you're looking for advice.

He did so. Sure enough, his friend told him something he didn't know…that he, as a customer, wanted to order more inventory on one of their products. But the CEO didn't manufacture high volumes of those parts, because he considered them too niche.

Well, guess what? He started manufacturing more of those niche products. And people bought more. It became one of his best-selling products. It even enabled him to stay open & profitable for 5 more years, in the face of ruthless competition.


To Prevent Business Death, Remember That You are Not Your Customer. Every Day.

I used a lot of inflammatory language in this post. Why? Because I find it necessary on this topic. Even today, in a world where content drives nearly everything, I still run into people who make this fatal assumption.

"My customers like what I like. They want what I want." (No. Wrong.)

Their content suffers for it. They lose business to competition. Yet they still refuse to see where the problem lies.


Customer Reviews Destroying Business Uh oh, you assumed what your customers wanted! Time for business to die now.


Sometimes it's ignorance; sometimes it's ego. In either case, if you don't shake this belief out of your head, you'll always lose out to competitors.

Talk to your customers. Really. It's okay. Trust me, they're happy to share.


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#audience #business writing #content #content development #content management #content operations #content strategy #copywriting #target market #website content #websites