Understand Your Customers, Understand Your Brand

It’s not enough to know the where and the what about the customer journey—you need to understand the why

Photo: Shelisa Bainbridge, founder of PointPath Consultants

EVERY BUSINESS OWNER knows their ideal customer. Or, at least they think they do.

But do they really? Understanding your customers can often mean the difference between success and failure, and helping businesses find those answers is what Shelisa Bainbridge, founder of PointPath Consultants, does every day.

With offices in London and Toronto, PointPath helps companies better understand their customers, knowing not just who they are, but why they make the choices they do. It’s an invaluable process for a sales team to help them keep current customers and secure new ones.

“It’s about taking the time to understand why people engage the way they do, and then building a business story and brand that showcases and proves this understanding” — Shelisa Bainbridge

“At its core, this process is all about getting to know each other,” says Bainbridge. “It’s about making connections and getting close to customers and other users. It’s about taking the time to understand why people engage the way they do, and then building a business story and brand that showcases and proves this understanding.”

According to Bainbridge, the first step in developing this vital connection is providing clients with a clear picture of what they know and what they don’t know. “I would say that most of the corporations we have worked with over the past 20 years do have a good understanding of their customers,” observes Bainbridge. “It’s good because the information they use is almost always quantitative. Quantitative data, such as customer behaviour, tells them what their existing clients are doing.

“What it does not do is provide a complete view of why existing customers are doing what they’re doing, and it does not provide any view of the behaviour of people who are not yet customers,” Bainbridge continues. “This piece requires qualitative data that will give us those insights by capturing current and potential customer needs.”

Blending quantitative data with qualitative data, explains Bainbridge, enables companies to follow a model established by successful companies who bring in new clients while maintaining the loyalty of existing ones.

Shelisa Bainbridge

“What’s their secret sauce?” Bainbridge asks. “They have effectively figured out how to capture a well-rounded, fulsome view of customer needs, and they architect their business model around fulfilling those needs. And the secret ingredient to this secret sauce is enhancing their quantitative data with qualitative insights.”

Circling back to the opening questions, Bainbridge says it’s important for businesses of all stripes to ask, “Do you know your ideal customer?” Are your clients your ideal clients or just your current clients? If you understand the needs of present and future clients, and how your business can best serve them, then you may have found your secret sauce.

Historically, larger, established companies have been PointPath’s traditional clients. But with the growth of the startup culture in Canada, Bainbridge says the firm is increasingly helping guide young businesses on how to develop customer-centric strategy early, rather than come to it later.

“We would love to invest more time in supporting startups—helping them to iterate on their ideas in a faster way using customer feedback loops and helping them to structure from the get-go in a way that will get their product or service to market sooner,” she says.

Combining the data-driven nature of her work with a passion for the human side of business, Bainbridge applies the principles she teaches to enhance the experiences of her own clients. “I love getting to know people and listening to their stories. Over the years, I’ve learned that my main strength is connecting with people. Whether it’s facilitating meetings with all the relevant stakeholders, individual coaching or running training sessions, this role allows me to do this all of the time.” 

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