7 Insights CEOs Need to Know About Their Customers

Human beings aren't statistics.

We now have access to limitless customer data.

But for business leaders who are committed to knowing their customer, the numbers alone will never be enough.

Why? Because human beings aren’t statistics.

The Human Behind the Numbers

If we are to get to the human side of the equation, we need to wear two different hats: that of a psychologist and an anthropologist. We need to observe our customers (like good anthropologists) and probe their psyches (like good psychologists).

Then, the human story emerges and puts us in a position to understand and serve our customers better than anyone else.

Seven Insights that Reveal the Customer Story

In our coaching work as customer advocates, we are frequently tasked with viewing the marketplace through the eyes of the anthropologist and the psychologist.

Our aim is to help translate the customers’ inner worlds into a language business leaders can understand and use.

Here are seven foundational insights we look to uncover and why they are important.

1: Tensions You Help Customers Resolve

Tensions are a defining characteristic of the human experience. Behind every aspiration or unmet need lies a tension—an opposing impulse.

Tensions are at the core of all great stories; they are behind every hero’s adventure. Tensions are what drives your customers to conduct business with you.

What are the primary tensions your customers are trying to resolve through their interaction with your business?

2: Positive Emotions You Help Customers Experience

Customers make buying decisions primarily from the irrational-emotional center of their brains (limbic system), not the rational-thinking center (prefrontal cortex).

When you know the positive emotions your customers experience when they interact with you under ideal conditions, you can find ways to create more of these experiences.

What are the primary emotions your customers experience when they interact with your business under ideal conditions?

3: Needs You Help Customers Meet

We spend a great deal of time on the topic of human needs on this blog because they are so fundamental and yet so commonly overlooked among executives. Humans are biological creatures. We are driven to meet a basic set of human needs.

But humans are also “spiritual” beings. We are inspired to grow, develop, and transform ourselves. Businesses that help customers tap into these higher level needs foster strong bonds that lead to loyalty.

What needs does your business help your customers’ meet? Are you helping them meet higher human needs too?

4: Archetypes Customers Associate to You

Carl Jung discovered that the human psyche is comprised mainly of images. Many of these images are cross-cultural, found all over the earth in our myths, dreams, and fairy tales. He called these universal images archetypes. These archetypal images trigger instinctual, physiological urges that lead to set patterns of behavior.

When you know your business’s archetypes, you can determine the images and emotions that will align your corporate culture and consistently attract the right customers.

What are the archetypes that drive your customers’ interaction with your business?

5: Beliefs Customers Hold About You

Our beliefs form systems in our minds that act as a filter through which we perceive reality. Your customers believe specific things about your business (some are based on objective reality, others are not).

When you know your customer’s perception of your brand, you can ensure that you’re matching and elevating their perception.

What do your customers believe about your products/services/organization?

6: Common Characteristics Your Best Customers Share

Starting in our adolescent years, we begin to develop self-concepts and an identity of who we are. Although you likely have a diverse range of customers with various backgrounds, ethnicities, religious beliefs, worldviews, and so on, your best customers likely share certain defining qualities or personality traits.

These characteristics are not demographic details; they are relevant descriptions of who your customers are. If you can identify these shared traits, you can market to them in relational and meaningful ways.

What are the common characteristics that a large host of your best customers share?

7: Reasons Why Customers Choose You First

Your customers choose you over your competitors for specific reasons, some rational, some irrational. Rational drivers of choice in retail, for example, include quality, fit, convenience, size, selection, price, value, location, and customer service.

When you know what drives your customers to choose you, you know what’s important to them. With this knowledge, you can capitalize on these drivers and find ways to become irreplaceable in your customers’ minds.

Do you know what drives your customers to choose you over your competitors?


Getting to these insights, of course, is no simple task.

Thankfully, our goal isn’t to get the answers “right,” but to simply get closer to the center, to get in proximity to our customers’ hearts and minds. If we view our customers as human beings first and consumers second, we’re already on our way.

We come to these queries not from a desire to exploit or manipulate our customers, but to understand them, build relationships with them, and better serve them.

And, we must continually remind ourselves that there are no final answers: your customers—and your business—are in a constant state of change.

Imagine how different your business would be if you knew just half of the insights from the list above. How would it affect your decisions? How would it influence your vision for your enterprise?

Imagine the possibilities.

How Cult Brands Draw Power from Their Enemies

Every revolution throughout history has a villain. Every great cause or movement has a power it draws strength from.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain,” Thomas Jefferson writes in the Declaration of Independence, “is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

Jefferson goes on to list 26 items as evidence of the king’s tyranny. This evidence, which takes up more than 50% of the Declaration itself, was vital to the document’s purpose: to rally the people of the thirteen colonies, to stand united as one people.

And like all great leaders of Cult Brands, the founding fathers of the United States knew that in order to stand together, you need an archenemy to stand against.

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How to Get Customers to Choose You Instead of Your Competitors

Most agencies are shooting blindly at a moving target, and they don't even know it.

Your customer has many options.

They can meander into your store or stop by your competitors’.

On their devices, they can do the same or let Google offer dozens of other alternatives they might not even know exist.

How do they really make their decision on where and what to buy? More importantly, what can you do to influence their decision to choose you?

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Be A Better Brand Manager: Be Willing To Look Within

We all use a mix of rational and irrational criteria when making our purchasing decisions.

An integral part of building a successful retail brand is having a dedicated core of customers who love your store so much that they can’t keep themselves from recommending it to their family and friends.

What inspires this behavior?

Many brand managers are stymied by this question. They fall into an all-too-common mistake, acting as if their customers were an alien species of life, prone to completely incomprehensible behaviors that can’t possibly be understood, much less predicted.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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10 Ways You May Be Boring Your Customers and Employees

companies often don’t realize they’re boring their customers and employees.

You’re probably doing many things right. But if you’re not careful, it’s easy to fall into habits that result in customers and employees becoming disinterested.

Interesting businesses aren’t just talked about more frequently in the media. Their businesses are alive. Energy flows throughout their organizations into the heart and minds of its customers. 

This open exchange between business and customer continually breathes new life into the enterprise. It also helps to grow the business.

Here’s a list of ten things companies often unintentionally do that bore their customers and employees and what interesting companies do differently. 

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How One Need Motivates Your Employees AND Your Customers

Cult Brands give their customers the sense that they belong.

Human beings have a powerful, instinctive need to belong.

Abraham Maslow was the first to highlight this basic human need. After people meet their physiological and safety needs, they seek a sense of love and belonging. And, when the need for belonging goes unmet, humans become unhappy and behave in unhealthy ways.

The need to belong influences your enterprise both internally and externally.

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The #1 Reason Most Vision Statements Fail

A company vision helps you think beyond the company of today in order to build the company of tomorrow.

You’ve got to think about ‘big things’ while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.Alvin Toffler1

The reason most vision statements fail is that they’re as statements. 

Instead of treating a company vision as a North Star—something that is used to guide decision-making—most companies attempt to codify the vision in a brief statement that’s treated as an endpoint. They treat a vision statement as a magic tool: it’s as if just by having one, they’ll be imbued with some preternatural power that supercharges their business.

But, company visions aren’t magical talismans. Company visions are tools.

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3 Ways Taking a Break Improves Performance

Again, it is well that you should often leave off work and take a little relaxation, because, when you come back to it you are a better judge; for sitting too close at work may greatly deceive you. Again, it is good to retire to a distance because the work looks smaller and your eye takes in more of it at a glance and sees more easily the discords or disproportion in the limbs and colours of the objects.Leonardo Da Vinci1

When things are busy or stressful, it’s easy to get caught up in the doing and lose perspective. And, when you lose perspective, it’s hard to connect your day-to-day actions with what you desire over the long-term

Here are three ways taking a break can help you achieve long-term success.

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10 Ways to Inspire Your Organization

Inspired organizations create environments where people want to come to work.

Achieving your company’s vision requires having everyone in the organization working towards achieving that goal. Here are ten ways to inspire people in your organization on the way to achieving your company’s vision.

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Searching for Status, Discovering Everything Has Changed

Everything has changed—on the surface. Underneath, the unconscious motivators that drive consumer behavior remain the same.

If we stand here now and look back into the mists of time to the very first days of human commerce we’ll discover that business owners have always wanted the answer to a single question: what makes consumers act the way they do?

One of the factors that drive consumer behavior, consciously or otherwise, is meeting individual needs. You’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the model that tells us that we are all in possession of certain innate needs that must be met in order for us to enjoy optimal physical and psychological health.

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