Who’s my customer?
One of the companies I advise offers a free service to students: Job postings from newspapers targeting recent graduates. The newspapers actually pay the company to post newspaper listings in front of her targeted students on the internet and via mobile phones. So who’s the customer?
For years she’s seen the folks who actually pay her as her customer. But they’re not her only customer. The students looking at the ads, the visitors, are her customer as well. Even though they’ve never paid her a dime. In fact- I’d argue that the students are her most important customers.
The real value of this company’s business is his ability to attract, and engage, students- and get them to act on these job ads. Which increases (dramatically) the amount of money the newspapers are willing to pay him.
Of course, attracting, engaging, and capturing these students is even more valuable. Knowing who her visitors are, and asking them what they want, will allow her to develop and deliver other actionable content (read- ads, products, and services) that solve problems for her customers in the future.
Her visitors will all, in an ideal world, not need to be looking at the employment ads she’s currently serving them at some point in the near future. They’ll find their dream job, be happily employed, and moving on in life.
She currently has a ‘lifetime visitor’ horizon of about 3 months- basically the amount of time it takes to find a job or give up. She can change that by looking at her visitors as customers- and find out what problems they may have in the future. And address those problems.
So what she does now, how she identifies and solves their needs today, AND how she prepares them to keep visiting in the future will be the difference between her being a ‘pretty good, cash-flow positive’ business and a home-run.
In every business today we have multiple customers. Some pay us with money. Some by visiting our site. You’ve got to look good and hard at who your customers are and make sure you’re providing value to all of them. And keep in mind- your suppliers, service providers, and your employees are all making decisions about being your customer as well.