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How to Turn Everyone Into a Customer

There's a reason people aren't buying your product or service. Now innovate your business to reach them.
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As obvious as it sounds, most people aren't your customers, which can be a barrier to your success.

How can you turn these non-believers into your customers?

Alessandro Di Fiore, CEO of the European Centre for Strategic Innovation, writes in the Harvard Business Review that companies must shift their focus from their customers to their non-customers. 

"Unfortunately, a focus on known customers and share of the existing market is ingrained in the processes and metrics of companies," he writes. "You can improve the odds on succeeding through innovation if you fix this data problem by treating non-customers as a segmentation problem and apply some of the discipline of marketing research."

In other words, put your non-customers into categories addressing their reasons for non-involvement. Di Fiore offers six:

Economic: Your product is unaffordable. 

Functional: Your product doesn't help in the way that they want. 

Educational: They don't understand how to use it. 

Access: Geography or the lack of a web store prevents people from buying.

Social: Your product doesn't conform to certain religious, social, or political principles.

Emotional: People simply don't like it. 

Once you've outlined the categories, analyze the barriers and how to get past them, whether by creating a new product or a new marketing scheme. 

Arena, a global swimwear company tried this very method. It found two segments--functional and social--were restricting its sales: Most non-customers couldn't swim or they lacked a proper breathing technique. To address the latter issue, Arena developed the Freestyle Breather, a pair of plastic fins that attach to goggles and create an air pocket. As for the social aspect--devout Muslim women wished to cover their body--Arena designed a bodysuit just for them. 

"Of course, you won't capture all your potential market space through this exercise," Di Fiore says. But "sorting non-customers into the categories described here and analyzing barriers blocking potential demand gets you a very long way."

IMAGE: Shutterstock (modified)
Last updated: Oct 2, 2013

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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