No business, regardless of the industry they’re in, can can afford to keep their head down and allow the world beyond their walls to pass by unnoticed. So to try to stay in touch, the usual sources of industry intelligence they turn to include trade shows, trade journals, blogs, conferences, and even industry websites. But as useful as these sources can be, they tend to provide intelligence from the “inside”—from the industry’s perspective. What about the most important perspective—the customer’s perspective?
Customers see your shop and industry from the perspective of their needs. They care more about what they want than what you have. And if you don’t have what they want, you don’t have a business.
This is why customers’ questions, requests, inquiries, complaints, and product suggestions should be seen as a must-have source of intelligence. Business has a history of telling customers what they want instead of asking what they want. There’s an old and famous story about the appliance manufacturer whose sales were tanking until they went out and asked customers where they wanted to have the knobs on a stove instead of telling them where they would have them. They hadn’t been tapping into the intelligence available from their customer base and paid a price. They didn’t know what customers were expecting from them and their industry.
It’s a simple but powerful concept—gather intelligence from your customer base.