Leadership Series - Who Is Your Customer? with Patrick Bryant

CEO and co-founder Patrick Bryant discusses the importance of identifying the true end customer and the many segments they fall in while developing a product.

Leadership Series - Who Is Your Customer? with Patrick Bryant
Patrick Bryant
Patrick Bryant

When CODE/+/TRUST is engineering a product, our first customer is, of course, the person or client that we’re building the product or application for. That said, that’s not why we’re actually building the app. 

Our goal isn’t to make a product to make our client happy; our goal is to make a product to make our client’s customer happy. With each product we ideate, we really drill down our action plans around who the end customer actually is. The number one way to make money is to make someone else a lot of money. That’s true, even for our client’s clients.

When we plan out a product launch and approach that first phase of development, our team’s primary focus is discovering how we will build a product that not only provides a differentiating value, but improves the lives of the group of people who are actually going to use the product. This is always at the forefront of our thought process. 

Now, of course we want to make our clients money. Monetization is a key to longevity in success and driving customer retention and satisfaction! In order to accomplish that, though, we have to think one channel down.

Seth Godin, an entrepreneur and best-selling author, explains this thought process perfectly:

“The question: Who is your customer? It's not obvious.

Zappos is a classic customer service company, and their customer is the person who buys the shoes.

Nike, on the other hand, doesn't care very much at all about the people who buy the shoes, or even the retailers. They care about the athletes (often famous) that wear the shoes, sometimes for money. They name buildings after these athletes, court them, erect statues…

Columbia Records has no idea who buys their music and never has. On the other hand, they understand that their customer is the musician, and they have an entire department devoted to keeping that 'customer' happy. (Their other customer was the program director at the radio station, but we know where that's going…)

Many manufacturers have retailers as their customer. If Wal-Mart is happy, they're happy.

Apple had just one customer. He passed away last year.

And some companies and politicians choose the media as their customer.

If you can only build one statue, who is it going to be a statue of?”

-Seth Godin

So, as we think about our customer’s customer, we ask ourselves:

  • Who are they actually trying to serve? 
  • What is their need? 
  • What is going to make them want to pay money or spend time or whatever the thing is you’re trying to get from them?

It’s also important to remember that just because a particular product or service doesn’t relate with you personally, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad product. 

Take, for example, Gerald’s Tires & Brakes, a tire and service company here in Charleston, SC. They’ve spent a tremendous amount of money in Charleston over the years in advertising and marketing campaigns. If you were to see an ad from Gerald’s Tires and it didn’t particularly resonate with you, that doesn’t mean Gerald’s Tires is bad at advertising. It just means you weren’t their target market, and that’s okay. Sometimes you have to recognize that you aren’t the target customer for a particular product, but you still need to think like you are in order to bring your best ideas to the table.

Focused customer channels are another very important aspect of our product development. There are multiple channels, and they can of course vary greatly. Some of them are high volume customers that will do a ton of purchasing, but oftentimes they are rather low margin. Because they bring so much volume, though, the trade off is worth it. On the flip side, some customers will have a super high acquisition cost, but because the margin is much higher, the juice is worth the squeeze. 

Regardless, it’s not enough to simply identify a baseline client (i.e., people who need to purchase tires). To truly be successful, we break that customer base down to multiple segments and channels, because that’s going to impact how we market to them and get them to use products. 

At the end of the day, as CODE/+/TRUST plans each product we develop, we keep those various customer channels in mind with every marketing strategy, and focus each action plan around why those end users need the product, what they are getting out of the product, and how we are going to market that product to them efficiently and effectively.

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