How different is your business from your competitors, really? Yes, your business has YOU in it. We will give you your props. But although you can be a differentiating factor, if you want to scale and add value to your business, it has to be able to operate effectively and grow whether you are in the office or not. If you want to grow your business by fulfilling unique needs or in a unique way, you have to look outside your business. Market advantage starts with identifying your core customers.

Who are your core customers?

These are the people (or other businesses) who buy from you over and over again. They are currently buying from you, and they pay full price. They already might be referring other customers to you. Your core customers are the ones you would like to clone because they are profitable and low maintenance. So make a list. Really. Sit down with a tablet, or gather your team around an easel pad and make a list.

Why do they buy from you?

If you don’t know the answer to this question right now, don’t guess. Ask them. Ask your customers via a survey, or hold a focus group. Visit them at their places of business or take them out for coffee or lunch. What are the attributes that your company and its products and/or services offer that are attractive? Do they like some unique quality about your products? Is there something about your buying experience that keeps them coming back? Find out which of the factors is most important.

Remember to include questions about what they would like to see that you don’t already offer. Because if you want to solidify the loyalty of your core customers you’re going to have to earn it every day. That means keeping your finger on the pulse of their changing needs, and predicting where they are going to go next. Your company’s ability to keep core customers relies upon your company’s ability to be nimble and implement change.

You gain the most strategic advantage from this exercise if you also know – in some detail – what your competitors are doing for the same core customer base. Your goal is to capture white space that nobody else working in right now. Now that you know what the core customer wants, how they want it, when they want it and why they want it, add (or change) in ways that that nobody among your competition is doing. Count on this being a moving target, with your goal to be the one the other companies are trying to imitate.

Give them more of what they want – Build Direct

BuildDirect discovered that its core customer is a woman who likes to do home projects. Click the link and you’ll see that the company’s site is full of project pictures, deals, trends, recommendations, etc. that are designed to appeal to women purchasers. For the do-it-yourself customer there are instructions on how to select materials, measure spaces, and complete projects. There is even a toll-free number where a customer can talk with an expert if they have questions or run into a problem.

If you want more information on how to build a market advantage in your company by focusing on core customers, check out The Inside Advantage by Robert Bloom.

You’re probably not for everyone

This is not a broad and wide strategy. It’s narrow and deep. If you shift resources to focus on the needs of your core customers, you might not please everyone in your current customer base. You might lose some high maintenance clients, or customers who squeeze your margins in some ways. Losing some customers is OK – IF you have taken the time to identify your most profitable customers and their needs, and then built your products, services, and buying experience around them.