Strategyn
who is your customer

Who Is Your Customer

Accelerate revenue growth

By defining customers differently

Who is your customer?

There are many possible customers; buyers, users, influencers, administrators, and distributors. So who is your customer? When looking through a jobs-to-be-done lens, we see that they are all trying to get a job done, but not the same job. Of course, companies want to help any and all potential customers get their unique jobs done better, earning their loyalty. The key to success, however, is knowing who the primary customer is and the hierarchy to follow to optimize value creation and profits.

Myths that mislead

When asked who is your customer, companies often tell us that they serve many customers. This includes internal and external customers, distributors, buyers, influencers, employees, and so on. Calling them all “customers” is common, even acceptable. But it perpetuates a myth that misleads. They are not all customers in the true sense of the word. Companies are making a mistake when they give all these constituents an equal or greater priority than they give their primary customer. This leads to focusing time and energy in the wrong places, inhibiting a company’s ability to create value and grow.

How do you decide who the primary customer is?

Concluding that the distributor, the purchasing department, or the buyer is the primary customer is almost always a mistake. Products and services exist to help someone get a functional job done, not so someone can distribute, buy, or install them. Of course, companies have to make sure its distributors, buyers, contractors, sales team, and employees are all happy, but they are not the reason the company exists. When deciding who is the customer, the focus should always be on the people using the product. They are the ones for whom value is being created and the reason why the market and the product exists.

This can be a little tricky when a company sells its product as a component in another company’s product. In this case, the primary customer is the designer of that product. The designer is hiring the product to help deliver a specific function. It should be noted, however, that more value could potentially be created for these designers if the company knew more about their customer. Knowing more about the end users’ job reveals an avenue for growth that is often worth pursuing.

Focusing on the wrong primary customer leads to failure

It’s hard to conceive that the people you sell to, collect revenue from, and talk to every day of the week are not your primary customers. IBM thought ComputerLand was its primary customer, not the computer user. But then Dell and Apple created offerings that took the distributor out of the equation. The result? ComputerLand went the way of the dinosaur, and IBM eventually got out of the PC business. But computer users didn’t disappear. They were, and are still today, the primary customer.

The first step in profiting from the customer is knowing who they are. We work through the confusion and the resistance to make the right choices, so value can be created. This is part of our innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI). Learn more about our growth strategy consulting services.

Published Articles

Turn Customer Input into Innovation

In this timeless 2002 Harvard Business Review article, Tony Ulwick first introduces the concept of Outcome-Driven Innovation to HBR readers. He explains how Cordis Corporation (now a division of Johnson & Johnson) used ODI to increase its angioplasty balloon market share from 1 to 20 percent by knowing who its customer was and helping that customer get the job done better. Learn More

The Customer-Centered Innovation Map

In this groundbreaking 2008 Harvard Business Review article, Tony Ulwick and Lance Bettencourt reveal an important discovery they made while turning jobs-to-be-done innovation theory into practice: job mapping. Recognizing just who is your customer, a job map breaks down the job the customer is trying to get done in a way that enables us to discover all the customer’s needs. Learn More

White Papers

What is Outcome-Driven Innovation?

Outcome-Driven Innovation is the most effective innovation process in existence today. This white paper, by Strategyn founder and ODI inventor Tony Ulwick, explains why innovation has historically been an ineffective process, the discoveries he made that led to ODI, and how we use it to identify just who is your customer and accelerate company growth. Download the white paper

Books

What Customers Want

What Customers Want, the best seller by innovation thought leader Tony Ulwick, explains what Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) is and why it works. Ulwick, who pioneered jobs-to-be-done thinking and invented ODI, details how ODI transforms jobs-to-be-done theory into a practical method for understanding just who is your customer and an effective process for innovation and growth. Learn More

Case Studies

Choose from a dozen case studies with companies such as Microsoft, Ingersoll Rand, Bosch, and others, and learn how we apply our ODI methodology to identify just who is your customer and help companies grow. Learn More