While Columbus settled the round vs. flat argument many years ago, the world is still filled with people who see things from different perspectives. When I started in the coffee machine cleaning products business, I knew nothing about the industry or even how to brew coffee. I assumed that my only chance of pleasing customers would be to offer a product of comparable quality to that of the competition at a better price. I began with an expectation that my customers just wanted “coffee soap.” Thank goodness I was wrong.
My first step was to make a great product and try to sell it at a lower price. That failed miserably. No one wanted to switch to our products despite the value we offered. In response, I set out to figure out what made my customers tick. I hung out in coffee shops, traveled the Pacific Northwest, visited roasteries, and learned to make my own espresso each morning.
Quickly, I realized that price didn’t matter. It was about trust and confidence and comfort. My audience was passionate about keeping coffee equipment clean and they wanted to buy from others who understood that. They would do anything for safe and effective products from a company that thought like them. In fact, they didn’t want low cost options. They wanted the best and they wanted it from someone connected to them. It wasn’t until I separated myself from the barista, the roaster, and the specialty shop owner and learned to appreciate them that business started to click.
Business success often depends on our ability to separate our personal wants and expectations from those of our target audience. Remember, it takes work to understand our audience so that we can sell the products they desire, seal the deal they expect, or make the hire of the employee we need on our team.
Anytime you find yourself liking your own advertisement, assuming an employee will love a new work assignment, or expecting your competitor to follow a path you see as the obvious choice: STOP! Take a breath and remember to remove yourself from the equation. Think about your audience, their situation, and their interests. It’s never just about what you like or desire.
Never forget: You are not your target audience.