By Erica Olsen
Don’t Forget Your Customers in Strategy Development

From time to time, clients from around the globe hail the OnStrategy team. This month we found ourselves in South Africa. The country is well known for its spectacular safaris and equally being an emerging market (25th biggest economy to be specific). The convergence of these themes reinforced one of the core tenants of any good strategy – know your customer.

As teams and leaders of those teams, everyone knows and believes this catch phrase, but how we struggle to put it into practice. In fact, I dare say it might be the hardest of all practices to put in place. We know how to manufacture ourselves to excellence. We know how to put in place world-class training to develop our people. We know we can develop amazing products and services. (And if we don’t know, we just hire a consultant who says he will tell us.) BUT, what we don’t always check is if anyone will care—just because we can build it does not mean anyone will buy it. This is especially critical in an emerging market as customer trends shift like the wind. What worked last year is not guaranteed to be a success in the future.

Let’s agree to prevent this strategic blunder by pursuing knowledge of our customers like photo safaris pursue knowing the majestic “Big Five” (rhinos, elephants, leopards, lions and water buffalo). Sear into our minds the picture above as it is the perfect analogy of the focus and dedication we should apply to “knowing our customers.” Take your own customer safari and…

  • Go to where your customers are. Spend time with them. Understand their hopes and fears.
  • Know their daily rituals. What wastes time? What is time accelerator? Where do you fit in?
  • Share your customer experiences. “Staple yourself to an order.” Shadow your client for a day.

Most importantly, be passionate about revolving your organization around the “Big Five” in your show. After all, without them, the picture looks pretty empty.