Automation, systems, and productivity are all the rage in the startup world these days. And while they will help you run your business better, these approaches are not what will help you win.

Business is about people. And you will grow your company more effectively when you are able to solve the problems of your customers, the people you serve, like no other.

To do that, you'll need to know them better than they know themselves. You need to know them as well as you know your best friends, your significant other, or your family members.

When you have this degree of intimacy, a deep understanding, and familiarity with your customers, it will enable you to create the products and services they want, communicate about them in a manner that induces action, and create a delightful experience that keeps them coming back for more.

Why customer intimacy is your secret weapon

In the early 1990's, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema introduced the value disciplines model, as a guidepost for how businesses could effectively compete:

Companies that have taken leadership positions in their industries in the last decade typically have done so by narrowing their business focus, not broadening it. They have focused on delivering superior customer value in line with one of three value disciplines--operational excellence, customer intimacy, or product leadership. They have become champions in one of these disciplines while meeting industry standards in the other two.

While companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon excel in operational excellence, and innovative businesses like Tesla and Apple focus their energy on product leadership, as an entrepreneur, embracing customer intimacy is your unfair advantage.

That's because it gives you a blueprint for exactly what you need to do to create and earn loyal customers. In addition, when you use your knowledge of your customers to create deep relationships with them, you are able to compete on a level that plays to your strengths, rather than one that caters to companies with the deepest pockets.

Here are some additional benefits of customer intimacy.

1. It tells you what products to develop

It can be tempting to create products and services that you think are perfect and want to sell, but you'll fare much better when you build the products your customers want to buy.

The products and services you make for your customers are like gifts. And you are able to give the best, most impactful, most beloved gifts when you talk to and listen to your customers on a regular basis.

Over time, they will give you a number of clues that lead you directly to the path of what product they would be more than willing to buy from you.

2. It tells you how to communicate

You can have the best products and services, but if you aren't able to effectively communicate about them in a way that makes it known to your customers, then you will struggle to sell them.

When you talk to your customers and get to know them on a deep level, you'll discover which features and elements are most important to them. You'll learn the way they talk and the words to use that will grab their attention and move them to action.

3. It tells you how to create delight

Once you've done all the work to get customers into your business, your job is not over. You've got to continue to work to make sure the experience they have with your product is one that will keep them coming back for more of what you have to offer.

To do that, you've got to create an experience that is simple, sets your customer up for success, and makes them feel cared for.

When you are in tune to your customers, you'll know where they get stuck, what will put a smile on their face, and how to move them forward to get even stronger results with your products and services.

Automation, systems, and processes are important things to have in place to run your business efficiently and effectively. But don't get so sophisticated in how you operate, that you eliminate the thing that will have the biggest impact on your business growth: a strong relationship with your customers.

Stay close to your customers. Interact with them on a regular basis, and get to know them at a deep level. When you do, you'll tap into your unfair business advantage, because you'll be able to solve their problems like no one else can.