On Getting to Know Your Customer

by JC Grubbs
August 7, 2013
We've been around long enough now as a company that I've had the opportunity to observe many interactions between our team members and their clients. One thing that has struck me time and again is the little things that we do in an effort to become subject matter experts within a client's vertical. I think this is one of the markers of success for any consultancy and something customers should look for when evaluating agencies - it turns the vendor/customer relationship into a partnership.
 
Here are few things that we do to build knowledge around an industry and in particular a customer's business.
 

Ask Questions

This one is obvious; when you need to know something, ask questions. The important thing here though is to ask "Why" as much as "How". Asking how helps to know what a customer wants to build, the why questions lead us to what they want to accomplish.
 

Follow The Money

In any industry there is a natural flow of money and understanding that flow helps to know what the business drivers are. Knowing where a customer's business fits in to this flow and how their revenue model works is crucial. This knowledge allows us to bring new ideas to the table that will compliment the customer’s own approach.
 

Understand Partnerships

Most businesses these days, especially digital ones, are only successful if they're able to negotiate strong partnerships. Knowing the various players in an industry and what roles they play can help illuminate the nuances of an industry. This is also a good opportunity for disruption and possible cost savings if a vendor or provider can be removed from the equation.
 

Understand the End Customer

Some of the first questions we ask of any new client are "Who is your customer?" and "Why would an individual or company spend money for your service?". We often break these down further into personas, which categorize end-users on several dimensions. This can help us identify places where we can trim unnecessary features from an MVP (minimum viable product) or even spin off separate products.
 

Investigate Competitors

Unless a customer is one of the rare trailblazers in an industry they'll have competitors. We spend a fair amount of time researching a customer’s competitive landscape so we can help them avoid the pitfalls that others have already experienced. Beyond just learning what feature-set works in a space we learn about pricing models, partnerships, user expectations around customization and on-boarding, and much more.
 
--
 
More than technology or even product design the software business is about knowledge. It's about taking a problem space and synthesizing a solution from as much knowledge as we can obtain. It's essential to our success with any customer that we get to know their industry, their business, and the people involved.
 
If you run a services organization I'd highly recommend examining the tools you use to become subject matter experts. And, if you're a company looking for a consulting partner you should ask the question, "How will you get to know my business?”
 

Chicago startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Software Engineer Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Sales Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Perks at Chicago Tech Companies
LOCAL GUIDE
Your Guide to Healthtech in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Data Scientist Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Marketing Jobs in Chicago