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Define, and emotionally grab, your core customer

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Grow or die.

Every business owner must understand this stark reality, according to Bob Blume, author of “The Inside Advantage.”

In today's intensely competitive, technology driven global marketplace, no enterprise – including yours – can be sustained without growth.

Bloom, a marketing professional who has more than 40 years of experience working with global companies such as Nestle down to mid-market family businesses, is a contributing author to Gazelles International, an international asscociation of strategy consultants who work with high-growth companies in the mid-market.

His key piece of advice is the same to everyone who wants to grow their company – get clear on your core customer, your who.

Growth demands that you attract new customers to your business. However, chasing too many new customers or the wrong new customers can end up hurting your bottom line.

Securing the right core customers can open up all sorts of opportunities, unlock a product's true potential and change the fortunes of a company.

To grow your business, get to know your core customer well enough to define him or her as an individual with special needs, concerns and desires.

Your core customer is one who is most likely to buy your product or service in the quantity required for optimal profit. And your core customer knows other customers just like him or her.

This is very important to understand – your future customer looks very much like your current core customer.

A core customer example comes from Nestlé's Juicy Juice. Initially, Nestlé went to market with Juicy Juice thinking kids were its core customer. But the product launch was a total failure.

When Nestle officials sat down and really dug in, they found their core customer was a “mom who wants her children to get more nutrition.”

The product is now the No. 1-selling children's juice on the market.

All growth is not created equal. Sales growth is essential to assure that revenue exceeds the company's ever-increasing cost of doing business.

And, to ensure the company's enduring health and prosperity, profits must grow in step with or even faster than revenue.

Sacrificing profits with excessively ambitious plans – such as unrealistic expansion, expensive acquisitions, extravagant marketing and unrelated new products or services – often ends up killing the company instead.

Even worse, some business leaders can't resist the seductive exhortation to reinvent their businesses – to turn them into something that they do not have the potential to be. It usually fails because it destroys the heart and soul of the original enterprise.

Remember that your mission is profitable growth, not growth at any price.

Thinking of a business merely as a commercial transaction is narrow, limiting and ultimately self-defeating. It does not allow you to consider and act on the all-important role of the customer's emotional connection to your business.

This is why it is so critical to fully understand your core customer. The better you understand your core customer, the more likely you will be able to connect your offering to meet his or her emotional needs.

It is essential that you recognize that your core customers' aspirations evolve, often quite rapidly.

Once you have clearly defined your core customer, it is equally important to concisely define your uncommon offering, your what.

Your uncommon offering is an existing strength that is the centerpiece of a powerful growth strategy. It is often underutilized and hidden deep inside the company and waiting to be discovered and put to work.

When it is, it becomes your business' inside advantage.

Your uncommon offering is the way you differentiate from your competitors and stay out of the commodity trap, a sure bet to fail for most. It is aligned with your core customer, and is wrapped up in the tangible and emotional benefits your offer provides your customers. It is how you win.

An example of an uncommon offering comes from L'Oreal. Its uncommon offering is “helping women look and feel beautiful.”

It clearly sells women's cosmetics, but there is a deep and profound difference between “selling cosmetics” and “helping women look and feel beautiful.”

This uncommon offering informs every decision at L'Oreal. The business that offers prospective customers meaningful benefits and an emotional experience far beyond a simple transaction will prevail over its competition.

If you feel that your brand or company is not realizing its full potential, kick-start the growth of your business by defining your core customer and uncovering your uncommon offering. This is a winning combination that could forever change your company.

Tom Garrity is managing partner of Compass Point Consulting LLC in Bethlehem. He is a certified coach with Gazelles International and a certified exit planning adviser with the Exit Planning Institute. Compass Point provides growth and business transition consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses. He can be reached at 610-336-0514 or tgarrity@compasspt.com.

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