Please Don’t Drink the Koolaid


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We’re so proud that we boarded the customer-focused business flight. Listening to customers, focusing on their needs and delivering great service has become the battle cry for most businesses.

The transition to focus on what our customers need, instead of what we want to sell them, was a positive step.

Yet today that customer- focus has become a curse for many businesses.

How can I say that? Customers are the lifeblood of our businesses. Without customers, we have no revenue. Without revenue, well, we’re not really a business, now are we?

Our best customers give us so much more than revenue. They’re our sounding boards for ideas, our guinea pigs for new approaches. Their needs shape our future. After all, smart companies travel in lockstep with their best customers. Right? Not really.

Successful companies reach beyond their best customers to find their truth.

You see, the problem with listening to your best customers is that they’ve drunk your KoolAid, and you’re drinking theirs. That KoolAid creates a Gravity-driven Group Think that severely limits our ability to see new opportunities – beyond our best customers and our own perspectives. We’re happy with our KoolAid, our best customers are happy with our KoolAid – so what’s wrong with that?


I’m not saying that listening to your best customers is a bad thing. I’m suggesting that only listening to them sets you up for failure. You see, every business and market is dynamic. Sooner or later we must all adjust our course or we will crash and burn. It stands to reason that some of our best customers will travel in directions that aren’t necessarily compatible with our own growth. That’s a business reality.

We’ve known our best customers for so long, and the changes can be so subtle. Over time the divergence becomes significant, but we don’t always see what’s happening as familiarity blinds us. We follow our best customers’ road maps, enjoy their kudos and map our own future plans to their focus and requirements.

Gravity enters when serving our special customers limits our profitability today and our growth tomorrow.

Selecting the best sources of input is just as important as asking the right questions.

Not every customer today is a great future customer. Nor is every winning market today likely to be an opportunity for high growth tomorrow. We need a blend of input, balanced proportionately across our past, our present and our future.

How do you balance your customer feedback so you don’t drink your own KoolAid?

That’s easy: Talk to more people. After all, Value is in the eye of the beholder – and the only beholders that matter are your customers and prospects – ALL of them, not just a select few.

For example, talk to the following buyers for a breath of feedback:

  1. Big customers in our major markets. Even with the risk of gravity they bring, their input is important. Blend it with input from newer and emerging market customers to get a balanced perspective, giving it only the weight it deserves. Don’t pick your favorite customers. Find new major sources of revenue and listen.
  2. Smaller customers from a diversity of growing markets. Identify the markets that are growing and gather feedback. Pick the customers that are early adopters; they’ll be the ones that lead the rest of that market forward – and give you insights into your future.
  3. New customers in new markets. Pay attention to that handful of new customers coming on board, the ones with the new and different applications of your product. Their new and different could well become your future opportunity.
  4. Pipeline prospects. Prospects offer perspectives on your weakness as well as your strength. By identifying and addressing weakness in your business, you can create additional value and fine-tune your targets.
  5. Suspects. We all have gut intuition about a new market, an emerging opportunity and the next set of changing winds that are going to hit our business. Don’t wait for these suspects to appear; seek them out in prospective buyers, partners and industry thought leaders. Identifying that next big growth front is your chance to lead. Remember, it’s always easier to capture a market early in its growth, before competitors step in and take the lead.
  6. Naysayers. Sometimes you gather your best feedback from those who don’t exactly like you. I always find a few curmudgeons to chat with about my clients: a lost account, the guys who drive their customer service reps nuts. Listening to their perspectives helps you find holes, learn which areas need improvement and expand your reality.

When we identify the best combination of sources and listen to a broad set of perspectives, we’ll find the truth we seek by listening with an objective mind. And we’ll ditch the Koolaid that limits our growth – forever.

Image courtesy of jasonEscapist

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rebel Brown
Rebel Brown consistently challenges the status quo to deliver optimum solutions and high velocity growth for her clients. She combines the strategic expertise and tactical savvy of a global Corporate Strategy, Launch and Turnaround Expert, along with the leadership and motivational skills needed to get the job done.


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