Last week I found myself in another conversation trying to make the case to the owner of a medium sized manufacturer that his best shot at survival was to focus obsessively on a niche where he could add value in some way to customers that his competitors could not match, where he had a competitive advantage.

As often happens, the need to deliberately choose to ignore a possible ‘walk in’ was winning the day, the  desire to be all things to all people ‘just in case’.

It is a common challenge for all businesses, not just small ones.

In the course of the conversation, I recalled a sense of confusion that occurred last Christmas.

My wife bought me a couple of shirts. I needed them, but hardly inspiring.

As ‘Santa’ handed the wrapped pack to me, she said “I did not know what to buy you”.

In that moment, I realised that while the woman I had been married to for 35 years did not know what to buy me, I got emails every day from Amazon offering me stuff that I would really like!

A bloody algorithm knows me better than my wife!

Go figure that one out if you can.

Jeff Besoz has made a huge dent in the world, and one of the quotes attributed to him is: ‘Amazon  does not sell to customers, we help them to buy”

Pretty good advice, and to do that, you must know them intimately, at least as intimately as possible.

Bezos insists that there is an empty chair in every meeting at Amazon representing the customer, to continually remind all and sundry of why they are there.

Simple really. Customers will buy from those who know  them well enough to anticipate and deliver on their needs.  Customers are not interested in us, they are interested in them. The extent to which we can help them, they will be prepared to buy from us rather than someone else who exhibits less interest in them.