How do you know what is important to customers?

Why is it that once we walk through the door of the
business each day
we are programmed to want customers to believe
that what we are doing is the answer to their problems and that the features and
benefits of our products will be important and useful to them.  Suddenly the
world seems to be centred around the products and brands that we

Somehow the corporate mission or our
own ambition can blind us to insights
we acquire every day.   As
we spend our home and shopping lives being customers and making choices between
products we can develop a good understanding of what it means to be a customer. 
We can understand what is important and how trivial or important different
decisions are to us.

I have been reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book,
The Black Swan,

Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

See our discussion  click here   

He has been reminding me how easily we can get persuaded
by the "narrative" explanations
that exist within the business. 
How easily we tend to seek confirmation of what we would like to believe in the
anecdotes and events around us.  How difficult and more challenging it is to
rigorously assess the evidence. 

How do you deal with this?

As a
successful business person you know you must cut through this

and you should understand what is important to your customers.   

But how
much time and money do you devote specifically to find out what is really
important to customers so you can act on it?   And if you do spend time on it,
what is the best way to discover what is important to our

But you may be thinking that you
already know what is important to customers
.  Why should you
invest more money and time in finding out what is important to customers.  Just
stay with us for 2 more minutes reading this ezine and we will give you the
chance to assess whether you have done enough.

What we have found

We have frequently observed in project after
project and study after study is that successful business people do know a lot
about what is important to their customers.  Especially sales people who are
talking regularly with customers and marketers who choose to spend time
listening to consumers.

We have noticed that
the managers in the business tend to get it 80% to 90% right

Which sounds great.  And would that we could get everything 80-90% right!  But
the problem is the thing you miss out or get wrong is often the important
attribute feature or benefit that could make all the difference.

Here are some examples from our own studies

Examples where managers
think something is important but consumers think is less important than other

Healthy snacks – less than 3% fat, not embarrassing to eat in
Gardening – used by professionals, use less peat
Reinsurance – can
offer independent advice, harnesses innovation.

Examples where consumers
think something is important but managers did not spot it

Healthy Snacks
– is a satisfying eat
Gardening – Is attractive to wild life, forgives me if
I forget to water it.
Reinsurance – Flexible to my needs, fixes problems

How can you know what is important to customers?

Inevitably the most straightforward answer is to ask
and we would be the first to say that asking them in any
form is better than not asking them.  But there are a few pointers that we have

  • We have found the concept of an attribute is valuable to help distinguish
    what is more important or less important
  • Don’t get too tangled up in whether the attribute is a feature a benefit an
    emotion or an image, it does not matter.  What matters is which attributes are
  • Ask the customers/consumers to help you prepare your list of attributes. 
    They will often come up with some attributes that you did not think of.
  • A third party conversation is more likely to reveal the truth, if you have a
    relationship with your customers, this can get in the way of a truly transparent
    conversation.  On line or paper survey tools can also do this very well
  • Plan the approach so you do not lead them to give you the answer you want to
  • Ranking attributes from 1-10 or 1-20 is more revealing than asking for a
    score on a scale where 1 is not important and 5 is very important.

Attribute importance is a fundamentally important
part of helping our clients understand how customers make choices between
brands.  The really useful concept of Power Attributes is based around what is
important to customers and how you can differentiate yourself to

You can download our paper on this click

You can see our website discussion on this click

You can see our case study examples click

You can see our blog posts on Power Attributes click