The Customer at the Centre

Writing this offline (thank you, Qumana!), as I'm camped out in an office in the West end with no Net connection (a Bell Canada office with no wi-fi - go figure). I've been using time between meetings to catch up on my feed reading, and this post from Mark Evans just jumped out at me.

Mark paraphrases Peter Drucker's advice to "focus on the customer, and what they want, what they need and, most important, what they will buy." As Mark comments, "It seems like pretty straightforward advice because the customer is always right, right? But the more I thought about it, the more it's probably something that doesn't receive enough attention."

Damn skippy it doesn't.

In my experience, this is one of those "mistakes companies keep bloody making". It's simply astonishing how often the strategic planning process in companies is completely divorced from any understanding of who the customer is, and what they might actually be interested in buying (especially in the world of technology vendors). As Mark puts it, "For many businesses, the focus is on the product or service, and then trying to figure out how to convince consumers to buy it."

I've developed something of a mantra around this in the last few years - something I find myself saying over and over again in meetings with corporate executives, marketers, and communications people:

First figure out who your customer is; now put them at the centre of everything you do.

Should be blindingly obvious. So why isn't it?

Bonus link: forgive me for citing myself, but *ahem*