Know Your Customer
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Identify trends and challenges in your customer's industry.
- Identify the details of your customer's current business plan.
- Identify decision makers in your customer's business.
The first step of customer-centric discovery, Know Your Customer, involves researching your customer before you meet with them. You want to find out what they care about by getting to know their industry, business, and people.
No matter the size of your customer’s business, they’re part of an industry, so it’s always a good idea to know about current industry trends and challenges. Go online and:
- Research your customer’s industry in trade publications.
- Read current reports about the industry from professional services and consulting firms.
- Learn more about the industry on social media and LinkedIn.
As you research and analyze the industry, answer these key questions:
- What are the biggest trends and challenges in the industry? Consider what your customer’s competitors are doing.
- How do these trends and challenges affect the way the industry connects with consumers? Look for online reviews to see if consumers or other businesses like or dislike changes that are happening in the industry.
- What is the language of this industry? Note key terms that businesses in this industry use.
With this information you get a good idea of what’s going on around your customer. You also reveal some of the key challenges your customer and their competitors face.
Take a step closer and start to analyze your customer’s business directly so you can understand more about their:
- Goals—what they want to achieve.
- Values—what their guiding principles are internally and with their consumers.
- Initiatives—what they do now to achieve their goals.
- Strategies—what they plan to do to achieve their goals.
- Obstacles—what problems they face as they work to achieve their goals.
To find these details, go to your customer’s website and look for annual reports, earnings details, press releases, letters to shareholders, and investor presentations.
Keep in mind, when your customer is a smaller or private business, they probably don’t have big reports or presentations to share. This means you get to be more creative in your research. Try some of these activities instead:
- Read the About Us page on their website.
- Shop their store.
- Check out their social media pages and posts.
- Read online reviews about their business.
- Review what their employees say about them on Glassdoor.
- Search for their executive team on LinkedIn.
Regardless of the size of your customer’s business, make sure to answer these key questions:
- How does the business make money? Customers follow many kinds of business models, like selling products, services, advertising, or subscriptions.
- What challenges do they face? Examples include keeping up with rapid growth, new industry regulations, or hiring the right staff.
- What are their strategic priorities? Customers might want to expand their product offerings or expand into new territories or regions.
Take great notes, because you use these answers in the next steps of customer-centric discovery.
Of course, people are key to relationship building, so take the time to find out who works for your customer and who’s making decisions for the business:
- Map out the decision makers you already know, such as the chief information officer (CIO) or director of technology.
- Figure out if there are other decision makers.
- Think about how to connect with everyone, like through co-workers or partners.
- Create a plan to connect with them.
As you do all of this, ask yourself:
- What role does each decision maker play in the business? This includes both their title and what they do every day.
- What are their key priorities? Examples include security, reliability, or overall innovation.
- What challenges do they face? Examples include starting a new role or managing unhappy employees.
LinkedIn can be an awesome resource in your research. Check out the articles decision makers in the business share. Look at who they’re connected with and figure out paths for how you can connect with them.
Remember Alan, the sales manager for Get Cloudy Consulting? He’s just getting to know Cloud Kicks. So far, he knows that Cloud Kicks makes stylish and comfortable custom sneakers. As Alan works through the Know Your Customer step of customer-centric discovery, he visits their website.
Alan learns that Cloud Kicks is based in San Francisco with a factory in Fresno, California. He checks out the business’s LinkedIn page and sees that they have 100–200 employees. He learns that they’re a hit with celebrities, professional athletes, and people who attend Dreamforce in San Francisco—and they’re growing nationally.