Customer Obsession

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Customer Obsession

Customers are the foundation of every business. To ensure you succeed, in this section, you will explore customer-focus versus shareholder-focus. You will also learn how Amazon, Bonobos, Warby Parker and Casper used customer obsession to their competitive advantage.

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In this training, you will

  • Learn the difference between the customer-focus and shareholder-focus.
  • Deep dive into Amazon's customer obsession that made them one of the most successful companies in human history. 
  • Explore how Bonobos, Warby Parker and Casper used customer obsession to differentiate and scale.

The Business Mindset Vs. The Customer Mindset

The customer is the the most important person in your business. Unfortunately, most companies focus on their business customers: shareholders and investors.

Shareholder and investor focused companies have a “business mindset” and typically seek short-term profits, but this is not sustainable. You are probably familiar with the business mindset. It is taught in schools and, if you work in a traditional company, reinforced by the incentives. Business mindset companies innovate. They do so in the service of creating short-term gains to appease investors, often at the expense of the customer experience and the long-term relevance and viability of the company.

Long-term, customer-focused companies have a “customer mindset”. They use data to better understand the customer, the competition, the context, and their own capabilities to plan for the future. They don’t simply pursue the bottom line for the next quarter.

It is this simple yet foundational difference in mindset that separates companies that innovate from companies that evolve. 

The points below show how these differences play out across the business: 

  • CUSTOMER: For the business mindset, the customer is the investor. For the customer mindset, the end user is the customer. 
  • FOCUS: The business mindset focuses on the P&L. A customer mindset focuses on the customer.
  • GOALS and INCENTIVES: The business mindset strives to hit quarterly numbers and annual commitments. The customer mindset strives to solve customer problems.
  • PLANNING: The business mindset plans in quarterly increments toward annual plans, measured in dollars. The customer mindset plan towards near-term customer acquisition measured by long-term customer satisfaction.
  • REPLANNING: Great business plans are reliably drafted no more than a year in advance and include incredible precision. Great customer roadmaps are multi-year and include tremendous uncertainty.
  • FLEXIBILITY: The best business plans afford little deviation from the plan. The best customer plans secure permission to consistently optimize the trajectory of the company and its offerings as new information comes available.

The table below breaks out the differences for easier comparison: 

Business DimensionBusiness MindsetCustomer Mindset
CustomerInvestorEnd-user
FocusP&LCustomer
Goals and IncentivesQuarterly numbers and annual commitmentsCustomer problems
PlanningPlans in quarterly increments towards annual plansPlans toward near-term customer acquisition measured in long-term customer satisfaction
ReplanningGreat business plans are reliably drafted no more than a year in advance and include incredible precision.Great product roadmaps are multi-year and include tremendous uncertainty.
FlexibilityThe best business plans afford little deviation from the plan.The best product plans secure permission to consistently optimize the trajectory of the product as new information comes available.

The direction, incentives, and power structures in companies with a business mindset are generally very hard to change. Most C-suite compensation is tied to stock performance. C-suite incentives are typically set by the Board, and most company’s Boards are filled with mature, privileged white men who are incentivized to maintain the status quo to ensure the stock price. This focus on the stock price, which is heavily dependent on quarterly earnings, trickles down and infects the incentives of the employees of the company. 

Customer mindset companies evolve by creating long-term value for their customers. This long-term value creation is a durable competitive advantage that prevents disintermediation from competitors, thereby ensuring the company’s long-term relevance and viability to customers and investors. 

The customer mindset is the hallmark of the most successful technology companies: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Alphabet (Google). 

Everything has a life cycle. But the life cycle of American companies is getting shorter. A report by Innosight for 2018 predicts continued shortening tenure over the next decade for S&P 500 companies. According to the report, the average tenure for companies was 33 years in 1964. The length of tenure decreased to 24 years by 2016 and is expected to be just 12 years by 2027. That means that over 50 percent of S&P 500 companies will be replaced in the next 10 years. 

The economy needs to grow not shrink. But for that to happen, we need existing companies to change their current paradigm, and new companies to adopt a better one. The current model is failing, but that presents an opportunity to learn. 

Whatever your opinion of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, you have to admit that he’s the boldest CEO in America. In 1997, Bezos penned a letter to shareholders telling them that, from now on, it would be the customer calling the shots and not them. 

Bezos made it clear in the letter that meeting quarterly earnings calls and pleasing Wall Street analysts did not fit his idea of building value over the long term, but pleasing the customer was. In other words, Bezos gave the proverbial finger to the coffer keyholders and calmly went on his way. 

Here are some snippets from that letter along with a loose interpretation of Bezos’ real meaning:

“We first measure ourselves in terms of the metrics most indicative of our market leadership: customer and revenue growth, the degree to which our customers continue to purchase from us on a repeat basis, and the strength of our brand.” 

Read,“The customer, not you, is what’s important.”

“We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term.” 

Read,“We will not prioritize quarterly earnings or Wall Street reactions to them.”

“Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies.” 

Read, “You may not like or understand what we decide to do, but we’re going to do it anyway.”

“We aren’t so bold as to claim that the above is the ‘right’ investment philosophy, but it’s ours, and we would be remiss if we weren’t clear in the approach we have taken and will continue to take.” 

Read, “You may not like or understand what we decide to do, and we don’t care.”

Luckily for Bezos, he had divine vision, and his insistence on a customer focus has become the mantra of evolving businesses today. 

In the early 1900s, and during the Second Industrial Revolution, the purpose of businesses was profit. Most organizations in developed countries sought to cut costs, establish economies of scale, and secure a reliable supply chain amidst rapid advances in the creation of steel, chemicals, electricity, and consumer goods. 

Today, we are in a different era, and the Third Industrial Revolution has brought technological changes creating a much more complex business paradigm. Profits are no longer attainable simply by cutting costs; all the fat has been trimmed. Achieving growth now is a three-step process: acquire enough customers, collect the data from those customers, and create a model where the customers generate profit. 

If it sounds contrived, just look at the level of excellence Amazon, Facebook, and Google have reached in their efforts to harness customer data. It’s an art form to be admired. Amazon has 100 million Alexas sitting obediently in people’s homes unobtrusively recording the likes and habits of consumers. Facebook has a platform where users’ annotate their lives unabstemiously, conveniently informing Facebook of its next strategic moves. Google’s platform is at the intersection of a powerful search engine and email. Google’s gmail gives the company access to all of a consumer’s purchase receipts with data on where they live, travel, shop, work, eat, and sleep, and Google can tie all of that to a person’s search activity. Jackpot!

The point is that all this data allows these big companies to understand their customer, predict what that customer will want, and provide it before anyone else does. Customer data is where growth lies, as these companies have so expertly demonstrated.

While entrepreneurs today can’t emulate the models of the big data platforms, they can and must use their own customer data in a similar way to build a customer mindset. 

What is a customer mindset, and how do you achieve it? What happens when you don’t worry about next quarter’s earnings, and how do you raise capital with such an avant-garde approach? The HowDo Process will answer all those questions and more. But first, it’s important to understand why entrepreneurs need to think “customer first” and not “profits first.”

Amazon’s Customer Obsession

Amazon’s success is rooted in always being one step ahead in terms of knowing what the customer wants before the customer knows they want it, and then providing it. Amazon has obsessed over customers since 1994, and I’ve obsessed over Amazon since 2003. 

Bezos coined the term “customer obsession,” and every year Amazon uses their obsession to raise the bar on customer experience far exceeding other retailers on price, selection, availability, and delivery. Amazon used their technical foundation to build services that now power a majority of Silicon Valley internet startups, and their fulfilment capability outperforms the largest incumbents: the United States Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, and DHL. 

Every month Amazon expands its core capabilities. With each new core capability comes access to new customer data. This data gives Amazon greater insights into their customers which, in turn, allows them to anticipate the needs of their customers and build even more products and services to meet customers’ needs. 

In a fascinating CNBC interview with Bezos from 1999, the CEO discusses Amazon’s plans for scaling, which of course are based on servicing customers.

Bezos: “I believe that if you can focus obsessively enough on customer experience, selection, ease of use, low prices, more information to make purchase decisions…if you can give customers all that plus great customer service, and with our toys and electronics we have a 30-day return policy…then I think you have a good chance. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Bezos waxes lyrical about their customer focus, even going so far as to link the square footage of Amazon’s distribution space to the needs of the customer.

Bezos: “We have over 3,000 employees and over four million square feet of distribution center space. And those are things I’m very very proud of because with that distribution center space and half a dozen distribution centers around the country, it allows us to get products close to customers so that we can ship to customers in a very timely way, which improves customer service levels. That’s what we’re about. If there’s one thing Amazon.com is about its obsessive attention to the customer experience, end to end. 

When the interviewer suggests that Amazon is a “pure Internet play,” Bezos schools him. For Bezos, this is totally missing the point.

Bezos: “It doesn’t matter to me whether we’re a pure Internet play… we provide the best customer service…They [our investors] should be investing in a company that obsesses over customer experience in the long term. There is never any misalignment between customer interests and shareholder interests.”

At one point ,the interviewer compares Amazon, an e-commerce retailer with distribution centers, to Walmart, which has physical retail stores, and suggests that Amazon’s model is cost heavy.Bezos explains that, on the contrary, distribution centers cost less than retail space. However, the interviewer doubles down on his suggestion that Amazon’s model is too bold. 

Interviewer: “OK. So, you’ll open as many square feet of physical space as you have to hire as many employees as you have to…”

Bezos: “To service customers. Absolutely. And we’ll do it as rapidly as we can.”

Interviewer: “That’s a very cost-intense proposition.”

Bezos, patiently, explains the logic and the math.

Bezos: “Not compared to opening an equivalent network of retail stores. Look, when we open a distribution center, we’re opening places where we may pay 30 cents a square foot for a lease instead of paying $7 a square foot for retail space, which you might pay in a high traffic retail area. So when you compare those things, they’re not the same. You can’t compare a big chain of retail stores to half a dozen distribution centers. It’s just not, you know, it’s bad math.”

The interviewer remains dubious. 

Interviewer: “Either way, whichever side of the argument, you believe you’re making, it seems to me…”

Bezos: “There’s only one side, which is to obsess over customers.”

After the interviewer questions the razor thin profit margins that he suggests Amazon must work with, Bezos explains the rationale behind the company’s scaling.

Bezos: “We’re opening new product categories, and we’re expanding in new geographies. We have whole new business models with things like auctions. Now, we think this is the less risky of the two approaches because scale is important in this business. And you need scale also to offer the lowest prices and the best customer service to people. So scale is important to us, and we’re going to go after that kind of scale.”

The interviewer then makes a fatal mistake. Let’s say, he accuses Bezos of being a little overconfident. 

Interviewer: “Isn’t it to some extent a certain amount of, with all do respect, corporate arrogance, to assume that you can come into these businesses, which you have no experience in, and virtually overnight become the best in those businesses and the market leader in those businesses?”

We all know the answer to that with hindsight, and here was Bezos’s.

Bezos: “I don’t think so. So, you know, when we first started selling books four years ago, everybody said, look you’re just computer guys you don’t know anything about selling books. And that was true. But what we really cared about was customers, and now we know a lot about books. When we first started selling music, people said the same thing, but we hired the right people… so, you know, we take the commitment to the customer very seriously, and we’re not about to release something or announce something before it’s ready.”

The interview, overall, underscores Amazon’s complete dedication to the customer, which is such a no-brainer to Bezos but something so often overlooked by other companies. Bezos expresses amazement that no one has caught up with their customer approach and states, “we faced no like-minded competition for seven years.”

Examples of customer obsession

Fast forward to today, and the current e-commerce landscape has changed. There are now a host of other brands that are dedicated to the customer and have found a unique voice online outside of the traditional retail model. 

Three examples of such brands are Bonobos, the trendy men’s clothing manufacturer; Warby Parker, the online prescription eyewear manufacturer; and Casper, a company that has disrupted the mattress industry. 

Bonobos 

Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly started Bonobos when they noticed how hard it was for men to find a pair of pants that fit. Bonobos began as an online retailer that was later bought by Walmart in 2017 for $310 million. 

According to Casey Drake, writer for Endear, “From day 1, Bonobos vowed to take a different approach to their business model. Instead of investing money in traditional marketing methods, they instead invested in their customer experience and success teams. What resulted was a cult following willing to buy in to whatever new interesting concepts the brand would try.” Dunn described their approach as “maniacally focused on the customer experience and interacting, transacting, and story-telling to consumers.” The company’s popularity grew through word of mouth driven by brand loyalists. 

Warby Parker

Warby Parker, the online retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses, was founded in 2010 by Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa, and Jeffrey Raider, four students from Wharton. Described as “the most innovative startup of America” by Yashica Vashishtha, writer for YourTechStory, the four entrepreneurs introduced stylish customized eyewear to the online consumer. 

Warby Parker’s competitors were Luxottica and LensCrafters. Luxottica sold stylish eyewear, but the prices were high end, and Lenscrafters lacked any sense of style in its branding. Warby Parker’s eyewear were appealing, affordable, and customers enjoyed the convenience of trying on up to five pairs in the comfort of their own homes. According to Gilboa, one of the cofounders, “The idea was really based on two simple premises. One is that a pair of glasses should not cost more than an iPhone, and two, that eyeglasses could effectively be sold online.”

The niche product gained immediate traction, helped by Vogue, who covered the story within the first year of its launch. The brand exuded trendiness, style, and a dash of exclusivity while also being universal. Warby Parker’s branding and customer-focus built a defensive wall that protected them from competitors and other eyeglass manufacturers.

The company went on to launch physical stores and to build its own manufacturing in an optical lab located in Rockland County, New York. The company was valued at around $1.75 billion in 2018.

Casper

Casper, an online retailer of mattresses and everything sleep, achieved the extraordinary feat of persuading customers to buy a mattress sight unseen. It seems rather counterintuitive that buying a mattress without first trying it would be in the customer’s interests because who wants a mattress that is too hard, too soft, and not just right? 

But that was the whole point. Casper, through smart marketing, gained the trust of the customer to such an extent that they were willing to entrust Casper with the responsibility of choosing the right mattress for their needs, saving them a whole lot of time and trouble.

Using data on actual experiences and customer reviews, $75 gift-card referrals, plus a 100-day guarantee, Casper had found the customer’s pain point and nixed it. Casper built a relationship with the customer and made sure they were educated on their potential purchases, giving them peace of mind—a huge factor for big-ticket items.

Casper filed for an IPO in January 2020 with an initial valuation of $1.1 billion after its private funding round in March 2019.

Meeting the Customer Where They Are

What these brands have done, and others like them, is to find the white space in the market and develop a niche product. The success of these brands is based on identifying a specific need and building a story around the customer experience. The brands’ stories set the stage for every interaction customers have with the brand and communicate that through a channel indigenous to the demographic, the urban hipster in the case of Bonobos and Warby Parker. These brands then meet the customer on their terms and in their ecosystem—social media platforms, podcasts, videos.

Each company built a base following, and marketing was largely word of mouth. Each brand frames the product in a way that appeals to the consumer. In Warby Parker’s case, the brand speaks to something more than eyeglasses. It speaks to trendiness, it speaks to youth, it speaks to available style. It’s slightly aspirational but also affordable.  It’s slightly exclusive but also universal. That hint of aspiration, that hint of luxury and exclusivity, adds value to Warby Parker’s brand. 

Each brand managed to build a defensive wall around itself protecting it from competitors, although in Casper’s case, that wall has been penetrated to some extent.

What do these niche retailers tell us that Amazon and other platforms can’t? I think it is that customer focus is really about understanding the customer and meeting them where they are. For the opposite to occur; that is, for a customer to want to meet the brand, it takes an even more unique and probably luxury, high-end brand—like Louis Vuitton. Customers go to Louis Vuitton as a destination; Louis Vuitton has successfully built a brand that offers an exclusive experience, and if exclusivity is what you want, that’s where you go. 

Niche companies like Warby Parker, Casper, and Bonobos have not reached the scale of Amazon, but they have disrupted retail in their respective spaces. They looked at the entire playing field and noticed discrepancies. In Warby Parker’s case, customers were paying absurd prices for eyeglasses. Why? Because a consolidated monolith owned a ton of brands—Lenscrafters, Pro Vision, Ray Ban—and was jacking up the prices of the products because they controlled so much of the supply chain. 

Warby Parker saw an opportunity to disrupt the market with a digitally native, vertically integrated brand that was low cost and directly appealed to the demographic that couldn’t afford what was already on the market—they understood their customer.  

How Companies Protect the Customer Relationship and Avoid Disintermediation

Jeff Bezos has been a genius where the customer relationship is concerned. His clarity of thought in this area has been second to none. Bezos rejects any relationship with the customer that is transitory. 

For example, if a consumer walks into a store, grabs an item, and walks out, that does not form any type of relationship with the customer. The act solved the consumer’s need, but there is no enticement for the customer to come back. There is no same-day free delivery of that item or any other item that they might have forgotten to buy.

Whether we are talking about physical retail outlets, buying a plane or train ticket, or booking a hotel, the majority of the human consumer experience is being disintermediated by platforms and dominated by a few large brands, such as Amazon, because they offer convenience to the consumer.  

Thus, to avoid disintermediation, a company needs to employ strategies that retain a direct customer relationship, just like Warby Parker and Bonobos have done. 

Southwest Airlines, for example, does not expose their pricing on Kayak because they want the customer to book directly through them maintaining a direct customer relationship. 

Similarly, Apple News+ is a platform with 300 news providers. But The New York Times, Bloomberg, and The Washington Post all declined to join the platform to preserve their intimacy with the customer.

In the case of The New York Times, Wei YiyangWang Duan, and Ren Qiuyu of Caizin news wrote that the Times “worries that a third-party mediator will alter the relationship with users.” Apple News+ is a closed system that protects user privacy because Apple can see how many clicks an article received but not who reads it. Apple prevents advertisers from tracking user information, and content providers are also blocked from learning about their readers. This all means that it is harder for media like the New York Times to gain subscribers through Apple News+.

“We want to be able to email our users and develop a relationship with them. And we don’t really want anyone between us and that,” said Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times. 

The message here is that if you don’t want to be disintermediated, you need to think about maintaining a relationship with the customer in the face of all these platforms and commodity brands. You must build and strengthen the relationships you have with the customer. Some of it is building loyalty, some of it is building new channels and incentives to connect directly with your customers, some of it is changing the brand and the product, and some of it is changing the price point. But you won’t know which without data.

Using data to obsess over customers

Once you understand the concept of a customer mindset, the next step is to develop one. But, for that, you have to rely on data. I’ll explain. 

Let’s say that you think you have identified a pain point for your customer. Do you know what demographic experiences this pain point and why? Do you know if your competitors are already addressing this pain point. Will this pain point be relevant in five years, or will it disappear when the next iphone, 5G, or IoT shiny object comes out? At what price point can you produce the product, and is your target demographic willing to pay that much? Would your customer prefer a low-end or a high-end product? Do you have the capabilities to develop and produce the product?

A customer mindset means that you approach every decision from the perspective of the customer because you want a long-term relationship and growth with the customer. In contrast, a traditional approach or mindset might ask the following questions instead: What will the manufacturing cost be to develop the product? Will we have to retool? How quickly can we get it to market? What will the ROI be, and how quickly can we see an ROI? These are all valid questions that need to be answered, but they are not telling you whether you are meeting the needs of the customer, only if you are meeting the needs of your shareholders in the short term.

Once you understand the type of questions you should be asking, and from what angle, you need data to confirm your hypotheses. Data will tell you if you are truly serving your customer, which will give you the confidence to move ahead. Data will de-risk your decisions. Data will give you the credibility you need to tell a story that stakeholders will buy into so that you can move ahead. You need data to convince investors that what you plan to do is what the customer wants and is a value proposition. 

To give you an example of how data are the foundations of a customer focus in the small business context, consider a retailer’s customer-facing departments. These teams should have a huge impact on how the businesses are run because, for example, sales and account management can be some of the best sources of insights for your existing customers. 

These teams know when and why customers are bailing before a conversion on your website. Your social media teams are reading customer reviews and know what customers would like to see you change. Your outreach teams should be telling you if your potential customers are getting a better price point from somewhere else, or why they are turning to a competitor.

In short, data will instruct you in how best to serve the customer.

Removing Inefficiencies to Better Serve the Customer

Serving the customer also requires introspection. It includes examining your operations to identify inefficiencies that misalign with a customer focus. For example, if your accounting department is radically inefficient—you are using humans and abacuses to run your accounting department instead of software—that’s money that you are not spending on your customer in the near and long term.  

There is no end of software solutions that will reduce administrative costs. When I first started my career, my role was salesforce automation (SFA), customer relationship management (CRM), and database administration (DBA). There were three different systems in my organization: ACT, Goldmine, and Siebel. Some salespeople preferred ACT, some preferred Siebel, and others preferred Goldmine. This aligned with the three different teams: an institutional team, an educational team, and a corporate team.  

My job was to find a way for all these databases to reconcile to provide a single view of our customer, but the process was riddled with inefficiencies. For example, the ACT team had 36 salespeople, and each one of them had their own ACT database installed on their computer. Every night they would synchronize their database. Sometimes, they would override the changes that someone else had made in their ACT database. I had to reconcile all these different remote databases to ensure the integrity of the data, not only in the ACT database, but in aggregate.

Then, Salesforce emerged along with the internet and everyone talked to the same database. My job suddenly turned into tasks that were additive to the business, not reductive. My time and cost could be reallocated to things that could drive growth, such as the customer. 

In any organization, it is the accounting department’s responsibility to do their job with the least amount of resources as possible, and it is the same with legal, HR, and all the support functions. Administration’s role is to function at the least cost so that the areas that drive growth do so with the most resources because that is where your core capabilities lie.

That’s another reason why data is so important: identifying inefficiencies requires internal analysis. 

The Customer Value Chain 

Amazon’s narrative was once considered anathema. Consider the interview with Jeff Bezos at the beginning of this article where the interviewer accused Bezos of exhibiting “corporate arrogance.”

Through its customer mindset, Amazon has obtained long-term permission from the customer and now has long-term permission from Wall Street. Wall Street is no dummy. It looks right to the customer to figure out whether a company is relevant and what it’s future might be. Wall Street looks at the value chain, and Amazon looks at the customer value chain.

Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the value chain. It is described by Google as “the process or activities by which a company adds value to an article [product], including production, marketing, and the provision of after-sales service.”  

Fast-forward a few years, and companies like Amazon are now looking at the value chain from the customer perspective. The customer value chain is now all of the steps that a customer must take in order to acquire products and services. Now, the chain also includes online searching by the customer to learn about a product, product selection, finding a website to buy the product from, clicking, choosing delivery options, and so on. In other words, in the case of online retailers, what adds value for the customer is fewer steps in the acquisition process—enter Amazon’s 1-click ordering.

Google Cloud, on the other hand, is an example of how the customer value chain has not gone quite so well, as Ben Thompson of Strategery explains in an in-depth article.

Selling cloud infrastructure does not seem like much of a stretch for Google considering its search engine might. The problem, though, is that Google’s value chain is just that, a value chain, not a customer value chain. According to Thompson, “The world of enterprise software is not a self-serve world for the customer (and to the extent it is, Amazon Web Services (AWS) dominates the space). Google, to sell its cloud infrastructure, needs an intermediary layer to interact with relatively centralized buyers with completely different expectations from consumers when it comes to product roadmap visibility, customer support, and pricing.”

Google Cloud remains a distant third to AWS and Microsoft when it comes to cloud technology because Google lacks capabilities in customization, support, and the ability to sell. 

Google’s culture has been, according to Thompson, “about making the best product technologically and waiting for customers to line-up. That may have worked for Search and for VMWare, but it’s not going to work for Google Cloud. Instead the company needs to actually get out there and actually sell, develop the capability and willingness to tailor their offering to customers’ needs, be willing to build features simply because they move the needle with CIOs, and actually offer real support.” 

For Google Cloud to work, Google should focus not on technology innovation, but on its customer because as far as the customer is concerned, it is not giving Google brand permission for Google Cloud.

Brand Permission

If a pre-existing company or entrepreneur plans to launch a new product, brand permission is a critical factor. According to the Yale School of Management “brand permission defines the limits of customers’ willingness to accept a familiar brand name in new marketplace situations.”

If Warby Parker, the eyewear retailer, decided to branch out and sell jewellery, that’s a tenuous link, and obtaining brand permission would require massive investment in branding and customer education. Eyeglasses, sunglasses, or contact lenses are what the customer wants from Warby Parker, not bracelets and necklaces. 

The point here is that a customer focus guides you in future strategy. The questions to ask are will your customer want this and, if so, what does that mean for your customer relationship? 

Many entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of conducting in-depth qualitative and quantitative research. In that case, if a company has a thousand customers and can give them a survey via email that just asks questions, that’s something. Surveys are extremely powerful tools, and using the research from engaged customers allows them to participate in the development of the future of the company.  

Such surveys can be straightforward. It’s not a deep psychological assessment, it’s more about testing the presence of two things together at the same time. Does the brand and this value proposition make sense to you? Yes or no? And if no, why not? If yes, then what are the factors that make sense to you? How do you think we could communicate this well?

This is a thought-based, contemplative approach to growing and diversifying a business. It’s simple, but often overlooked. Products are too often thrown onto the market with a hope-for-the-best strategy. The goal here is not analysis paralysis, nor to convince people that an extraordinary amount of research is required before every leap. The HowDo process shows how to use intuition and the basic data that’s on hand.