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Some lessons about customers from and by HBR

First of all, welcome to week 40 (or 39, depending on where you are). I’m feeling a little lazy to write today, probably because I need to re-enforce the rule of not writing on the weekends…

Part of customer-focus when blogging, is certainly “who are you writing for?” Fidji Simo, a much better blogger than me and a friend, asks the question on her blog and gets some great answers. I need to ask the question on mine at some point. If you treat the world as specialists, then who you’re writing for becomes what you’re writing about. I think I’m writing from the stance of an entrepreneur-to-be and an outsider to the world of FNR + business, doing research. So I write about a broad range of topics, and perhaps there are some like-minded people out there, perhaps not.

As I grow more experienced, starting a career in this field, starting a business, constantly keeping in mind the quote by Annie Dillard..

“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be too cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

.. I expect to focus on more practical things.


So that is my “focus,” but maybe I forgot the “customer” along the way? Note to self: don’t make the same mistake when starting an actual business. Note to self 2: keep your sense of humour.

So let’s get back to Harvard Business Review, whose words I’ve been digesting slowly, but surely, over the last few months. There’s a couple of things I appreciate about the journal, as a customer, and the most important one is their use of an editors’ preview podcast to discuss next month’s issue. Why I like that is because it saves me from going to the news-stand and leafing through it—however pleasurable that may be. BusinessWeek does something similar, as do other weekly/monthly magazines, I’m sure. But I really appreciate this from any news-vendor, because it’s free, easily digestible, and is a great service.

And second, I appreciate their free content on the site; while it’s not quite as valuable to me their magazine publication, it enforces the image that HBR is a quality-brand, worth paying € 15 for per issue.

There have of course been some great words by HBR on the issue of customer-focus. As a matter of fact, I’ve just begun reading their special—OnPoint—issue on the lengthy topic of: “Staying focused on your customers, as you grow your business.” I have only had time to read their editorial so far, but that already asks some great questions:

  • What do customers really value in their relationship with you?
  • How do they perceive the basic action of placing an order with you?
  • Do you see total cost (in time/money) from their perspective?
  • Do you understand the buying process of your most profitable customers?
  • In designing new services, features, products, do you take a customer-centric stance?
  • Can you clearly differentiate your products from those of competitors, in your customers eyes?
  • How well do you learn about your customers’ needs in the past/present/future? How wide is that learning shared, does it affect decision making?
  • Is your customer strategy targeted enough towards acquiring, building a relationship with, and retaining them?

This has already given me plenty of food for thought today, and I hope it did the same for you!

The picture is courtesy of Solarseven on Stockxpert, but I was made aware of it via


  1. Thank you for your link to my blog, Customers Rock! We have similar thinking when it comes to customer focus. I also like HBR for their insights. They provide a good foundation for further discussion on the topic of customer centricity.

    I look forward to seeing more from you on this topic!

  2. Hi Vince,

    I can’t believe I missed this article! At the beginning of my term I just didn’t have time to open neither my Netvibes nor my blog statistics, but I did the latter today and find the link from your article.

    Thank you very much for it, but I would so much love it if it was true… These past weeks have proven that you are a much better and steady blogger than I am, but I hope to catch up some day!

    This article is really interesting from an entrepreneurial point of view, because I think that in big companies all this “thinking about customers” is completely integrated to processes (even if sometimes they’re not adapted) but it is different for an entrepreneur who believes so much in his idea that sometimes, he thinks he can force the customer in believing in it too. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

  3. Hey Fidji,
    No problem at all, I’m glad it has some value to you. And I like the way you created a focus for your blog, very inspiring.

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