For business success you need to know what, who and why

Can you clearly state exactly what need your product or service meets for a customer? Have you identified the types of customers who buy your product or service? Do you know why customers come back to you and why they don’t? If so, then you’re already some way to having the answers which you need to achieve business success.


The what, who and why of your business and your customers should be at the forefront of your mind when planning and delivering every aspect of what you do. For any SME, these answers will provide structure and direction for, among other things: the products and services you offer; who you target; what and when you communicate; how and where you send your messages; and where you focus your limited resources.

Below is a list of the key questions we think every business should be able to answer if they want to maximise their potential.

Running through the list, you’ll notice that the majority of the questions focus on customers, either directly or indirectly. Without customers you don’t have a business, which is why we advocate that they should be at the heart of your thinking in every business decision you make.

So on to the questions…

Can you answer these for your business?

Your business

  • What customer need do your services or products meet?
  • What is your competitive advantage?

Your customers

  • Who are your customers?
  • How many customers are repeat purchasers or would recommend your products or services to someone else?
  • What groups or segments of customer types have you identified for your current and potential customers?
  • How well are you meeting the expectations of your customers?
  • How successful are you at communicating and connecting with existing and potential customers?

Your products/services

  • Do you offer anything unique – on a local, country or worldwide level?
  • How does what you offer compare with your competitors?
  • Which products or services are delivering the best returns for you?
  • Do you have any ‘loss leading’ lines – those that bring a customer to you, on the back of which you can sell other things, even if they don’t deliver a good profit margin?
  • Which products or services have the most potential to grow?

Buying process

  • What factors are motivating customers’ buying decisions in your market?
  • What triggers a decision to purchase a product or service in this market?
  • What is the timescale and key points on the buying decision journey?
  • What motivates customers to buy from you?
  • Why do potential customers choose to buy from your competitors?

Business Operation

  • What capacity exists within the current business set up?
  • Are there clear goals set for where you want to be in the short, medium and long term?
  • Do you have a clear strategy for achieving your goals?

The Market

  • What is happening in your market place – is it growing, static or declining?
  • How does your performance compare to your competitors?
  • Are there any threats or opportunities, now or on the horizon?
  • How will projected demographic changes, planned legislative changes, technological changes, and so on, impact on you?
If you don’t know all the answers currently, then taking steps to fill the gaps in your knowledge would be a good step forward on the road to business success.

Whilst companies can still perform well without holding and using all this information, think how much more successful you could be if you knew the answers and used them to power your decision making.

Filling the gaps

Lots of the information you need to answer the questions is already available or can easily be collected. Here are some ideas on how you can go about this:

  • Within your business, use what your staff know from their dealings with customers
  • Set up your systems to gather information about buying decisions and processes
  • Analyse your business information and the response to promotional activity
  • Ask customers for feedback
  • Analyse any complaints you receive directly as well as comments on social media
  • Follow up with potential customers who decide to go elsewhere
  • Review information published online about your market, your competition and general trends, or consider buying topic specific reports
  • Attend industry related events to gain insights to current thinking and future challenges
  • Undertake bespoke market research

We can help

This list forms the basis of our discussions whenever we start working with a new client.

Where a client doesn’t already have answers to the questions which will help them with their current concerns, we identify how best to gather the information needed. When required we can undertake data analysis, review and revise systems, set up procedures, scope and deliver bespoke market research or undertake on-line research.

If you’ve found this article helpful, you might also like to read this post on identifying key metrics for measuring the performance of your business

For assistance with any aspect of your marketing and information, or if would like to know more about how we work, then please get in touch

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