By Jared Weitz, founder & CEO of United Capital Source Inc.
Of all the classic pieces of business advice, the one I always had the most trouble with was "Put yourself in the mind of your customer." Some businesses are started by people who want to help others just like them. Their target audience is their peers. When designing marketing materials, they can simply ask themselves, "Well, would I click on this?"
Plenty of entrepreneurs, however, do not have this type of connection with their audience. In my industry, which is business financing, there is often a large knowledge gap between businesses and customers. It can be hard to relate to people who are so misinformed or unfamiliar with your products.
Later into my career, I realized that this knowledge gap didn't have to stop me from seeing things from my audience's perspective. I believe that the following insights can help any entrepreneur greatly strengthen their connection with their audience, especially those facing my former dilemma:
1. Think of a product or industry that makes you uncomfortable.
No human being is a master in all aspects of life. Something that one person finds very simple could make another person extremely confused and stressed. Think of those letters in the mail or those phone calls that you purposely put off. Think of those necessary purchases that you absolutely hate doing research for.
In most cases, it's because you don't know much about your options. Common examples include new cars, credit cards, clothing or technology. If you weren't familiarized with these things at a young age, it may be particularly difficult to find the best option for your needs.
Now, think about why they make you so uncomfortable, and what the companies that sell them could do to ease your tension. Is it their customer service? The way they promote their products? The layout of their websites?
If there is a knowledge gap between you and your audience, it might be because, for them, your industry is a natural source of confusion and stress.
They don't research their options or stay up to speed with new developments because it makes them uncomfortable. It took me far too long to understand that shopping for business loans (my company's products) often has this effect on my audience. But this revelation also gave me my first experience of seeing my industry from their perspective.
When my team strives to improve our customer experience, we put ourselves in the mind of our customer by imagining our personal sources of discomfort. The changes we make are frequently inspired by the changes we wish to see in the industries that have this effect on us.
2. Study your industry's most disruptive companies.
The term "disruptor" is used so loosely nowadays that many people have likely lost touch with its true definition. Contrary to popular belief, a "disruptive" company doesn't just do something faster and/or for less money than its competitors.
The central purpose of disruption is meeting the customer's needs more effectively. These companies disrupt their industries by adding new levels of pragmatism to traditional business models. They essentially look at these models and ask themselves, "Why doesn't this make sense for our customer's needs?" In most industries, there is a ton of room for improvement in this area.
The disruptors in your industry were likely inspired by your target customer's newest and most important preferences. They are a paramount example of what it means to put yourself in the mind of your customer. Their older and larger competitors, on the other hand, failed to acknowledge these major changes in demand.
So, in order to put yourself in the mind of your customer, think about how their needs have changed as of late. In my industry, our target audience no longer has expensive assets that can be used as collateral, nor do they have significant supplies of working capital stashed away. My company and our competitors have adapted by creating new ways to assess risk and offering more benefits for taking out multiple loans as their businesses grow.
Connection comes from changing your perspective.
For me, strengthening my connection with my audience meant looking at them from different perspectives. I realized that we all have things that make us uncomfortable, and that the future of my industry still revolves around meeting the customer's needs more effectively.
It seems that when you have the right perspective, putting yourself in the mind of your customer becomes just as simple as it's made out to be.
Jared Weitz is founder & CEO of United Capital Source Inc.