To understand the needs of your customers, it's helpful to take time and action to understand your customer's perspective as they would describe it themselves. Towards that goal, I created a simple exercise I recommend every business owner perform themselves.

The Simple 5 Minute Exercise To Put Yourself in Your Customer's Shoes

For 5 minutes, write down all the problems your customers might face from the top of your head.

Make this list numbered to encourage yourself to come up with as many problems as possible within the 5 minutes.

Keep in mind:

It doesn't matter if the problems you come up with aren't problems your customers have. This exercise kickstarts the validation process around your customer's needs and helps you understand them faster than the alternative: deep contemplation.

It also doesn't matter if the problems you list aren't comprehensive. By making your customer's problems your focus, you will be better at recognizing them.

My exercise results

  1. "We have no idea where our customers are coming from"
  2. "Visitors aren't converting" - no completion of the sales funnel
  3. "Visitors immediately leave our site"
  4. "No one's clicking on our facebook ads" - poor click through rates
  5. "Our cost per click keeps rising" - approaching unprofitability
  6. "Our website’s SEO rankings are falling and so is traffic" - organic traffic decline
  7. "Our competitor just stole the top spot for our most important keywords" - outranked for terms that indicate high purchase interest
  8. "Our website just got banned by google!!"
  9. "Our emails go straight to spam" folder
  10. "No one's opening our marketing emails"
  11. "We don't know if our email strategy is working" You’re not tracking clicks on links in your emails marketing, or the tracking isn’t working correctly
  12. "Our discount codes and referral offers aren't working" trial isn’t being applied on click through
  13. "Our customer data is all messed up" Your meta-tags got mixed up and data for customer attribution is all messed up
  14. "Our brand name means something bad in the new market we're entering" Your brand name means something dirty in a country you’re about to enter the market of
  15. "Our brand is connected with something our customers really hate" Your brand just got attached to a celebrity/idea/brand who creates a feeling of disgust in your primary market
  16. "We have no foot traffic to our stores" You have no foot traffic to your physical location
  17. "We can't get listed on Google Maps" Google won’t approve your physical location on google maps

Exercise followup

Now that you've written down all the problems your customers face from the top of your head, it's time to review the problems as you've written them and adjust their perspective.

For each problem ask yourself these questions:

  • does the problem intuitively make sense?
  • is the problem written as customers would describe themselves?

Adjust how each problem is written to ensure it is both intelligible and is written as customers would describe the problem themselves.

Analyze your problems

To know the value of solving each problem you've listed above, you must first validate:

  1. how you know your customer has the problem
  2. how much this problem costs your customer

For each problem, list the problem in quotes and answer these two questions in short paragraph format.

How you know your customer has the problem

  • what are the signs of the problem customers would see themselves?
  • what actions can't a customer take that indicate a problem?

How much this problem costs you

  • how much time does this problem cost you?
  • how much effort does this problem cost you?
  • how much money does this problem cost you?

Example

"We have no idea where our customers are coming from"

How you know you have the problem
You don't have a grip on what actions your customers take that precede them buying from you. As a result, you don't have a clear understanding of how to retain the customers you have or how to acquire more customers like those you've acquired.

How much this problem costs you
Without knowing where your customers are coming from, your competitors can easily claim them as their own. Knowing how to find more of your most loyal customers often means the difference between business success and a business scraping by. Without knowing how your best customers find you, your efforts to satisfy them will be largely unproductive and you'll be throwing away the scarcest opportunities to grow: finding large groups of qualified customers before your competitors do.

Another question you might want to answer:
If your business has services specifically designed to solve the problem you've listed or your target customers need more assurance to convey you know how to solve this type of problem, you might want to list the initial steps they would take.

How to start solving this problem
If your website doesn't already have analytics set up, install a reliable analytics platform immediately. You should always know where your customers are coming from to understand who your business products and services are most important to. If you have a brick and mortar business, take the opportunity to survey your new customers how they heard about you.