Be the customer

Seth Godin struck a chord with me when he discussed reorganizing for profit. He basically says that retailers should organize their stores according to the tasks that buyers will perform. Home Depot should put screwdrivers next to their saws, because a person working with wood would likely need both. I’ve done this a million times at stores like this, finding myself walking through nearly every aisle before I can find what I want. Apparently, there are many people that don’t like this idea, thinking that I’ll find something I didn’t remember I was looking for. They seem to forget that if I can’t find what I’m looking for in the first place, I’m likely to leave.

We all have customers, whether they go by that name or not. Those we’re trying to sell our services to should be the ones we think about first. I’ve met many brilliant computer programmers who sometimes add feature upon feature to their programs that end up being totally unusable because they don’t think about their customers. Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail did this to me recently when they thought I wanted my web-based email client to be more like my desktop email (like say, Outlook or Eudora). Sure, Yahoo and Hotmail felt more like desktop mail clients, but Gmail is a million times faster and easier to use.

Who are your customers? Try putting yourself in their shoes, or better yet, asking them how they think something should be done. If you get yourself into their mode of thinking, then you can try to sell them on the stuff they didn’t know they always wanted.