Our brains are wired to take shortcuts. It means we don’t have to consciously arrange every single breath that we take or choose every blink that clears our view. This ability to automate is also our antidote to so much noise in our world. Those shortcuts protect us from overwhelm and confusion. And there are many times, I have to say that I am very grateful for that.
The downside however is that shortcuts can also mean you miss things.
Maybe, you didn’t realise your son had grown so much until he needed larger shoes, even though you were looking at him every single day.
Maybe, you didn’t realise the beauty of that tree until it had fallen down or the fact that all of a sudden that deadline that seemed so far away is looming large.
Shortcuts can mean you don’t always see things as they are happening.
In business, shortcuts can mean you don’t always see your customer.
Why You Need to See Your Customer
Now, I’m sure if I asked you to tell me who your customer is, you would be able to say whether they are male or female, how old they are and some of the other baseline demographics that indicate a positive match for you in terms of customer.
What I’ve found over the years though is that there is a tendency not to go any deeper than that.
There is a tendency to see the demographics alone when we think of customers.
That, in my experience puts too much distance between you and the human being that is your customer.
That distance doesn’t allow their story to come through.
And, to be honest, their story is far more important than yours or mine in the scheme of things.
Their story allows you and me to create and to deliver what they need.
And that becomes the secret sauce of all marketing.
When you See Your Customer. You See Their Story.
It Is Their Story That Helps Us Succeed.
An Experience in Seeing…
I had a very interesting experience recently that took me out of my normal routine and my usual way of thinking about things.
I was invited to sit for my portrait, during a 4 Day Portrait Painting course at Artform School of Art based in the lovely Dunmore East, Co. Waterford where I live. The instructor was the gentle yet powerful soul that is Tony Robinson and I was to be one of the models.
As a model I would have to sit in the same position for 3 hours so that each student could capture my portrait. I wouldn’t be able to move and yet I would need to be comfortable enough that I was relaxed in my pose. Because of course, tension can also be captured in a portrait.
As a guide for this process, Tony was truly insightful. He made sure I was comfortable to begin with, advising me to choose a place to point my nose which released my eyes to look around the room and take the whole process in.
This freed me to watch the artists watching me, seeing me, through me, at me or at how the light fell on my nose or my cheek. Some looked at me. Some looked through me. Each had their own style for relating to their subject.
I did find it curious those who chose to meet and engage with me at the start of the session and those who didn’t. Interestingly each artist saw something different and produced a different portrait.
And Yet… All of them were me. Just through different eyes.
Becoming Both Observer and Engager…
Tony was able to straddle both views.
He could switch between “observer” mode to catch the specific details of where the light fell on different parts of my face. He could see where colours moved in different parts of my hair.
And yet still, he acknowledged the human being in front of him and checked in with how I was doing during this process. He could sense when the tension seeped into my face and quickly alleviated it with a small phrase that appreciated me being there.
He created what I call a “space of allowing”.
This is a space I see in all my own work.
It is a space where magic happens.
Magic that day could have been in the moment where a particular colour was captured in the light or when the dog sat with me as if he too was in the portrait. A moment where we all smiled and relaxed into our work that day.
This is a space that needs to be cultivated more.
It is a space where you really get to see your customer regardless of whether they are an artists’ model, an engineering company or a Christmas shopper.
An Artist is Inspired to See what others Don’t.
It is a gift I think that we as marketers, business people and entrepreneurs could choose to learn.
And with that thought, I am reminded of this quote…
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Thank you to Artform, to Tony and the wonderful artists on the day. And thank you Martina, Artforms brilliant co-ordinator for giving me this opportunity. I will cherish it and the portrait that Tony gave me at the end of the session.
Lastly, I leave you with these 3 Ideas to
Help you Truly See Your Customer
- Meet the Human that is your Customer.
Check in with them often, not just once.
- Watch for Their Story.
It’s far more important than yours.
- Create a Space for Magic to Happen.
In this space, you’ll discover something different that you can offer and help them with. They’ll show you the way. They always do.