To find ways to give customers what they want, you have to understand their needs. These needs are not always apparent, however. Chuck Davis, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), in Portland, Maine, recommends learning your customers' job descriptions in order to adapt your services to their needs.

This practice paid off for Davis when he was CEO of a $20-million blueberry producer. The company's primary customers were professional buyers for large baking-mix companies. Given the unpredictable nature of the business, such as weather and world market demand, its customers had a difficult time performing duties such as budgeting and estimating delivery dates. "We investigated the job description of each of our primary customers," Davis says. "By knowing every aspect of their buyers' jobs, we were able to develop pricing arrangements and relay cost information to buyers in a manner that made their jobs easier. In short, we were able to satisfy our customers because we understood the demands of their jobs and how we could tailor our services to support them."

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing