All in all, I’m a fairly relaxed and unflappable person. This is something many of the people that I work with value. In the whirlwind of their lives, I am proud that I can be their calm in the eye of the storm. It helps them re-centre, see what’s really going on, and refocus on what’s important.Every once in a while, though, I get annoyed. Pissed off. I’m only human, after all. And what sets me off is usually matter of ignorance. While ignorance is bliss for those that are ignorant, it’s a nuisance to the rest of us.
Case in point…
A couple of weeks ago, I read a review of a new cookbook – The Everyday Art of Gluten-Free by Karen Morgan. Seeing as I’m the cook in the house and my girlfriend has horrible reactions to wheat, I take it upon myself to learn news ways to keep us healthy and well fed. By all accounts, this would be a great addition to my cookbook collection.
Coincidentally, I recently found myself walking by an Indigo bookstore, a popular chain and one of the seemingly last places in Canada in which you can find people flipping through physical books that they don’t yet own. (I think they used to call that a library.)
On a whim, I decided to see if they had the cookbook in stock and, much to my delight, they did. But (isn’t there always a “but”) the price listed on the back of the book was $29, whereas my previous search online showed that Amazon.ca had it listed at just under $18, as did Indigo’s own online store.
In my attempt to buy the book, I pointed out to the young lady at the check-out counter that the in-store price was much higher that what I could buy it for online and asked if she would match to the list price of their online store (as I was positive they would do). I even showed her both the Amazon and Indigo listings on my phone.
Sorry. The books online are always cheaper.
Huh?! Excuse me. It’s not as if I’m asking you to price match a competitor. I’m asking you to price match your own store.
Sorry. We don’t do that.
I’m an online consumer. And I’m pretty sure that there are others out there. For a retailer that struggles to find ways to get people into stores, a retailer that is facing massive competition from the 800-pound gorilla called Amazon, why are you forcing me to leave the store empty handed? Why are you losing the sale so easily? Why are you creating a detractor when you could be creating a promoter?
But the real question is, does Indigo really know their customer?
Maybe they do. Maybe they have identified customers that frequent their stores and those that shop online. (Hmm…if that’s the case, why are they charging one customer segment a premium over the other for the same product? Is the in-store experience so valuable that I should pay a premium for it?)
Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they haven’t really thought it through. Maybe if they knew who their customer really is, they would have my loyalty.
But they don’t.
One of the foundational element to building a solid strategy is knowing your core customer. A multitude of decisions cascade from that knowledge, including your brand promise, what drives your economic engine, in what sandbox you will play, and your ability to successfully execute.
When you know your core customer, you can define your business so much more clearly.
How do you get to understand your core customer?
Introducing Robert Bloom, author of The Inside Advantage. This is, hands down, a must read. In it, Bloom describes the process by which companies can determine their core customer, define what they sell, how they sell, and the use of imaginative acts to gets themselves noticed.
Bloom asks us to think of our core customer not as a demographic, but a real individual with a unique identity and needs. You must think of your customer (or potential customer) in the singular – as a living and breathing person, someone you can get to know and with whom you can develop a close relationship. Form a mental picture of that customer. Remember, you are trying to sell to a person, not to a demographic. You don’t sell your product or service to a profile on a piece of paper.
As you’re thinking about this, also consider the characteristics of a core customer:
- They will buy your product or service and a price that generates you an optimal profit. Why? Because they assign real economic value to what you have to offer and buying at your price is a positive action for them.
- They likely already exist in your customer base. Go and look.
- They are a real person with wants, need, and fears. Get familiar.
- They have a unique online identity and behaviour. Learn from it.
- They pay on time, are loyal, and refer others. Leverage them.
Take some time and really think about your core customer. Who are they? Is it clear? When you are clear about who they are and their needs, building your business will be that much easier.
By the way, I ended up buying the Kindle version of the cookbook at Amazon.ca for $10. Not only did Indigo drive me to the competition and lose a customer, they reinforced my usage of the biggest threat to their e-book platform. Sorry Indigo. I give you an F.