• The Supplier Central is now part of Business Data Group

    I’m pleased to let you know that this website has now become part of the BDG family and will be brought together with our existing UK business community under the banner of UK Business Forums. You can read the full release here

    Whilst my colleagues and I are working through the technicalities of bringing the two communities together we have suspended new registrations to this site and I’d encourage you to register on UK Business Forums

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    Richard ‘Ozzy’ Osborne
    Founder of UK Business Forums

Guide Back to Basics Chapter 1 – Know your Customer: Making the Chocolate Teapot useful to you

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Any successful business will tell you that one of the key ingredients in building the company was customers – their loyalty, their spend, their want or need for the product.

We run events for people starting out in the industry looking for advice from marketplaces and retailers - and when you ask the majority of people during networking about their business, surprisingly few mention the customers within the first few minutes. They usually say “Well I’ve got a great product that…X” or “We’ve built a website that will change the world by…Y”.

Now that’s not to say they haven’t actually thought about it, probably most have at some point, but it is often surprisingly low down the priority list. And why should it be top? Because customers are the lifeblood of your business, a lot of other things you could do without for a day… without customers, you cannot survive – you can make the prettiest website, the most beautiful product, top notch service, do all the marketing in the world. But, without someone buying or using the product, you have nothing.


Usually most of us are somewhere between having never considered the customer, and having entirely all our focus on them. But it is worth taking a minute

There’s a reason that the phrase ‘as useful as a chocolate teapot’ exists. But there’s also a reason that companies make chocolate teapots[1] and there’s a lesson to be learnt here – because these business’ thought about the customer. They have thought about their product in the same way as the genius of the ‘Pet Rock’ (1.5 million Pet Rocks were sold for $4 each![2]) – what will people buy?

They thought about who their customers were and what they wanted. Essentially people looking for a humorous gift, at a cheap price that will make people laugh! That’s why they added the ‘care for your pet rock pamphlet’ in the style of a pet guide. In the case of the chocolate teapot they’ve gone for chocolate fanatics, making the product innovative so it turns into a fondue which can be eaten.

Now if you’re not going for novelty this may be harder! So what should be considered? Isn’t this just an easy task? Not at all and it should direct every design, sales, marketing and pricing decision you make. So for this first chapter the homework is answering the 10 below questions from the Business Link UK[3] to see if you really know everything you need to know about your customers.

Ten things you need to know about your customers

  1. Who they are
    If you sell directly to individuals, find out your customers' gender, age, marital status and occupation. If you sell to other businesses, find out what size and kind of business they are. For example, are they a small private company or a big multinational?

  2. What they do
    If you sell directly to individuals, it's worth knowing their occupations and interests. If you sell to other businesses, it helps to have an understanding of what their business is trying to achieve.

  3. Why they buy
    If you know why customers buy a product or service, it's easier to match their needs to the benefits your business can offer.

  4. When they buy
    If you approach a customer just at the time they want to buy, you will massively increase your chances of success.

  5. How they buy
    For example, some people prefer to buy from a website, while others prefer a face-to-face meeting.

  6. How much money they have
    You'll be more successful if you can match what you're offering to what you know your customer can afford.

  7. What makes them feel good about buying
    If you know what makes them tick, you can serve them in the way they prefer.

  8. What they expect of you
    For example, if your customers expect reliable delivery and you don't disappoint them, you stand to gain repeat business.

  9. What they think about you
    If your customers enjoy dealing with you, they're likely to buy more. And you can only tackle problems that customers have if you know what they are.

  10. What they think about your competitors
    If you know how your customers view your competition, you stand a much better chance of staying ahead of your rivals.

[3] Business Link UK (now GOV.UK/Business)
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