A business’s main objective is to serve a customer. I know it’s very obvious, but really—when you boil it down, a business does something. The “something” could be anything. Selling a product. Offering a service. Giving advice. Making something. Teaching something. It doesn’t matter what your “something” is, it just matters that you have a “something” and know what it is.
Okay. Enough of the word “something.”
Every business has something. And you need someone to buy it. Just like that, we are back to that obvious point: the purpose of a business is to serve a customer. You serve by filling a need in the form of selling your something.
But here’s the thing. No one is going to buy something that doesn’t benefit them in some way. Sure, I might buy things I don’t want (like the mouse traps in my basement—I didn’t want them, but I needed them.) I buy things I don’t need (like the super-cute note book I picked up from Target even though I’ve already got twelve others.) I even buy things I don’t like (like the cough syrup that works the best, but tastes like cherry flavored poison.) No matter what the motivation, these things all offer me a benefit and fill a need or desire in my life.
A good, strong business will fill a void in a customer’s life. It’s a basic concept, but sometimes in the middle of making a product I love, finding customers, keeping up with the books, organizing receipts, and posting on social media…I forget who I’m actually serving: myself or my customer.
When I get busy, I can start thinking that my customers are actually supposed to serve me. I need these people to buy my services so I can pay my bills. I need the work. I enjoy my job. When things are going well, my self-esteem is boosted. My head starts to swell. I think I’m awesome.
Maybe I’m alone. But maybe this happens to you, too.
All this is to say that it’s vital for a business owner to stay intentional with time, resources, and service. We must remain vigilant so that we don’t fall into the deadly trap of self service and neglect our customers. Customers can tell if you really have their best interest at heart. Your customers are precious. They are people, and they are unique. You have a something that will fill a void in their life. They support you and enable you to have a business doing something you love. Your customers rock. So be sure you are serving them instead of yourself.
Here are five questions to ask yourself that will keep you centered on serving your customer.
1. Who is my customer? To ensure that you are serving your customer to your very best ability, you need to know your customer. Take some time to outline your perfect buyer. Write down their likes and dislikes, age, demographics, where they shop, what they do for fun, where they work. Consider their attitudes and values. Think critically about the problems they face in their life, and what will make their life easier or happier. Get as detailed as you can.
Once you have a vivid image of your perfect buyer, filter all your decisions through this sieve. Make sure that your decisions are focused on this one person. Make choices that will benefit them and relate to them the most.
2. Would I do this anonymously? If you stripped away the title “owner” and recognition you get for spearheading something new and exciting—would you still be doing this? If your smiling headshot wasn’t on the website and clients didn’t recognize you at the grocery store, would you still want to come to work every day? Are you reaping joy from filling a need or desire in your perfect buyer? Examine your motivation closely.
If your highest motivation for business is recognition and adoration from your customer, you may need to refocus. You can fully focus on serving your customer when you can confidently say you would continue to work, even if you were anonymous to everyone.
3. Would I pay for this? Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer. You may think that you presence alone is worth an extra Benjamin or two—but is that really the case? It’s hard to be objective with yourself. But really try. Would you buy from you? Why should someone choose you over the competition? If you are unsure, go back to the outline of your perfect buyer (from question #1) and brainstorm ways to make your business more valuable to this person. Your product should be something you are proud of, something you would gladly pay for, and something that holds value to your customer.
4. Why are my customers so awesome? You will stay focused on serving your customers when you are genuinely excited about them. It’s true. Your customers are awesome. They get you. They support you. They appreciate you. Take some time to list the reasons your customers rock. Write out why you appreciate them and how they’ve affected you. Revisit your list, reread it, and add to it often. When you intentionally notice your wonderful customer base, you’ll be excited to serve them.
5. If the business folded would I be okay? I’m not talking financially okay. I’m asking if you would be emotionally and mentally okay. Sometimes our identity can become so consumed in our business and brand that they can mush together until one one is unrecognizable without the other. In this case, a business can be our source of self esteem and self worth. That’s a dangerous place to be, and a mindset that doesn’t serve a customer.
In order to truly be able to serve others, one must be fully confident and secure in oneself. For example: If I am insecure, my main motivation will be filling my own void. I’ll be so busy looking down at myself that I will be unable to notice the needs of others—let alone fill them. To effectively keep focusing on your customer, be secure in yourself. Know who you are. Know that you are awesome. Understand that your identity is separate from your brand. When you are free to answer “yes” to this final question, you’ll be free to fully serve your customers wholeheartedly.