You Are Not Your Customer

A few days ago I wrote about how Everyone is Not Your Customer – an argument for focussing your efforts on some subset of “the world” so as to better target your message and as a result get a better response.

At the other end of the spectrum is a lesson that’s proven time and time again exceptionally difficult for most entrepreneurs to learn.

Your customers aren’t like you.

Building a business or a product is a process that’s full of decisions that need to be made. Many of those decisions revolve around the intended audience or customer. What message will they respond to? What will they buy? What problems are they likely to experience? The list is as lengthy as your audience is varied.

The problem comes when we try to answer those questions. The problem even arises when we decide which questions to ask. We choose questions and theorize answers based on our perception of what our audience might want.

The assumption we make is that our audience is like us. If we think something has value, they by extension they will also. We theorize what our audience might want through the lens of our own experiences and values. Even when we believe we’re honestly trying to figure out what they want, we still run it through the filter of what we would want in their situation.

Unless you’re producing a product or communicating a message that is exclusively for people exactly like yourself, you’ll miss your mark.

You are not your audience. It was one of the first lessons I needed to learn as a budding entrepreneur. What’s frustrating is how often I seem to need to “re-learn” it, even after all this time. In the pressure of the day-to-day, the deadlines, the pace of product creation, it’s so incredibly easy to fall back on old habits. To make decisions based on what we like instead of what they might want.

How does one find out what it is “they” want?

Listen. Ask, if you care to, direct or via surveys. Listen to the questions they ask, the words they use, the decisions they make, the pages they visit. Become a voracious consumer and collector of any and all data that directly or indirectly can tell you what it is your customers are clamoring for.

Then move your own preconceptions to the side, and give your customers what they want, or solutions to the problems that they actually have (as opposed to the problems you think they have).

Yes, to some degree you do get to choose your customers, and you should. Target a market segment, identify an audience, absolutely.

But then set aside your prejudices and listen to what it is they tell you.


Grateful that I even have an audience and customers to think about. 🙂