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How to Think Like Your Customers


Seven questions to ask yourself about your products and services.

Jerome Kern wrote, "When you're in love, smoke gets in your eyes."

Too often I meet founders or CEOs who are so in love with their vision that they don't take the time to consider what their customers really want. The CEOs aggressively market their product or service without thinking about what's really on their customers' minds.

It's easier to persuade people to buy what they want than what you want them to want.

Customers either consciously or unconsciously ask themselves seven questions before they commit to buying a product or service. If you can put yourself in their place, and answer these seven questions, you're much more likely to have them buy your product or service.

1. What can you do for me?

Robbie Bogue, the late president of Los Angeles-based Marketing Excellence, said, "People don't care what you know or even what you can do, until they know what you can get done for them."

Starbucks (SBUX) gourmet coffee shops know how important it is to get something done for people -- in their case it's giving people a breather from their stressful lives that they wouldn't normally take for themselves. Having a cozy nook to grab a cup of coffee, read a newspaper, surf the Web, and perhaps even have a conversation is an ideal setting to help people gear up on the way to work and gear down on the way home.

Requiring too much brain space, focus, and follow-through to derive the benefits of your service or product isn't going to fly in a too-busy-to-relax world. You better be able to explain quickly, simply, and clearly the benefits of your product or service.

2. Why is that important to me?

Your customers are looking for something they want to buy rather than something you want them to buy.

You love your product or service, but if what you're offering is of no value to your customer, who cares? Certainly your customers don't.

If they don't care about power in a hybrid and are only concerned about miles per gallon, they're not going to be impressed or buy a Lexus R400H, Toyota Highlander Hybrid (TM), or Honda Accord Hybrid (HMC).

In this climate of increased customer savvy, a hard sell is just not going to cut it. Find out what your customers want and need most, then build that and sell it to them.

3. Is that more than I'm getting now?

Whether people own up to it or not, everybody wants more.

If Domino's Pizza (DPZ) offered a "one for the price of two" special for people who want to diet rather than a "two for the price of one" special, how many customers would order that pizza?
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