Higher levels of thinking

CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, knows a thing or two about brand and product and once said, “Our whole role in life is to give you something you didn’t know you wanted. And then once you get it, you can’t imagine your life without it.” This starts with customer understanding.


A lot of new businesses obsess over product and innovation – and understandably so, their ideas have often been years in the making and perfecting. But failing to get out of your head and into the head of the customer, and understanding what they want, is a surefire way to build something that nobody wants. Build it and they will come does not work.

And it’s not just from a product viewpoint either, without a deep understanding of your ideal customer, their needs, their wants, their emotions, and what keeps them up at night – you are unable to create a brand and marketing strategy that will resonate deeply with them and spur them into getting in touch with you. 

Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers. A truly customer-centric business understands what “value” means to their customers and how to deliver this before, during and after the sale – driving repeat business and customer advocacy.

Great business leaders have highly-developed levels of empathy and emotional intelligence. This is combined with a scientific way to capture and analyse customer intelligence and a fearless approach to getting in front of real customers and asking real questions that carry the risk of rejection. They then have the ability to spot the golden thread of characteristics that most of the target market has and position their company and product around this.

When identifying a target market many new business owners segment their audience on criteria like age, gender, location in B2C, or job title, company size and industry in B2B. But think of it more as; what groups of people share the common attributes or behaviours that you have identified that your product solves? This will also help you to open up further markets in the future. There are some great free online tools to help you gather customer intelligence and make sense of this by building your own customer persona.

Maybe you are a passionate sports fan and the brand mission of Nike to; “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”, resonates with you. Maybe you like online shopping and the sheer speed and convenience of Amazon Prime means it’s the only place you now shop. These are examples of companies who know their customers better than their customers know themselves, and have mapped their brand and business operations intrinsically to their target buyers.

Once you have a firm grasp of your customers’ needs you will need to start aligning your projects and priorities to this and taking action. Another common early mistake of new business owners is to get caught in the false myth of “being busy”. To have real impact, make great strides of progress and break through start-up barriers you’re going to have to shift from a “doing” to an “achieving” mindset. It’s time to focus on outcomes and less around task lists.

Clichès exist because there is truth in them, and as the saying goes there are two types of people – thinkers and doers. Thinkers are the people who have a strategic or creative mindset, who plan and prioritise everything before taking action. Doers are people that jump into a task without thinking twice. The way teams or individuals operate between these two mindsets has a major role in efficiency and performance of a business.

The creation and development of a company will require you to alternate between a thinker mindset and a doer mindset in an iterative way – achieving outcomes fast. If we are at the start of a project it always begins on the thinker side of the spectrum, with an idea, basic concept or MVP. The beginning of something is also the stage when the mindset should change quickly from thinker to doer. It’s incredibly important that the first iteration goes from idea to test result with the shortest feedback loop possible. 

So remember, it’s not what you think that’s important but how you think. You won’t always have the right answers and you will have many moments of doubt, but strong strategic thinking skills will empower you to spot new opportunities, address emerging challenges, and equip you with the most important tool to realise future success.

Nick Wood, Exceptional Start Founder

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