The best invention of the 20th century

Selling is all about the meeting the needs and desires of your customers. Marketing is about stimulating those needs and desires.

Which prompts the question, how well do you know your customers? Do you know what their needs and desires actually are? I’m sure the response is, I know my customers ‘intimately,’ or if not intimately, ‘very well.’

Let me digress for a moment and tell you about my grandmother. She lived from 1902 until 1998, almost all of the 20th century. Being a curious sort, I asked her, just before she died (duh obviously), what she thought was the best invention of the 20th century.

Now, I knew my grandmother fairly well, so I tried to second guess her. It had to be the television, the radio or the telephone didn’t it? Maybe the vacuum cleaner or something else that made the daily chores easier (after all, she did have six kids). At least, something with a plug on it!

I was partly right. According to her, the best invention of the 20th century was something that we take for granted and nowadays seems insignificant… the electric light bulb. Although technically invented in the 19th century, the electric light bulb didn’t enter people’s homes until the 20th and when it did, the result was revolutionary. Suddenly the living day was stretched beyond the hours of daylight. No longer were dark evenings spent squinting beyond a candle or huddled up next to an oil lamp. The electric light bulb extended people’s lives.

So what was the point of my rambling? Well, I knew my grandmother pretty well, (I’d lived with her for many years) and I certainly knew her a lot better than I know my customers. Well enough to make assumptions about her that turned out to be totally wrong.

The point of this story is that it doesn’t matter how much you think you know your customers, you’ll never know for sure until you ask them. So ask. Simple surveys or a couple of questions at the checkout all help to build an accurate customer profile. And as an added bonus, customers actually enjoy being asked as it makes them feel that their custom is important to you and that makes them feel important in return.