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Branding Your Business for Growth Requires Knowing Your Customers

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Branding Your Business for Growth Requires Knowing Your Customers

Way back when, In the 1990’s, I used to work in retail sales.

I won’t say which national brand I worked for, just know that they were  known for their money back guarantee (for tools), and their huge Christmas catalog.

A few years back, the company folded into bankruptcy.

The company, formed in 1892 was closed, shut down, empty in 2018. Almost two-hundred years of business, destroyed.

I could blame the failure on a ton of things.

  • Poor corporate leadership
  • A change of focus on “hard lines” (tools, TVs, appliances) to a focus on “soft lines” (clothing, etc)
  • Having too many SKUs (products) in the store to contain in the stock room

I could go on… but, I won’t. I just get mad when I start thinking about how Sears and Roebuck failed. They failed their stockholders. They failed their employees. They failed the mall owners, where the stores were located. They failed the cities, counties and states who collected sales taxes.

Most of all, they failed their customers.

When I worked at the Sears in Gadsden, Alabama, I remember being proud about the golden letters emblazoned across each set of glass doors leading from the parking lot. “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” they said.

Humph! Indeed! (can you hear the sarcasm dripping from my lips?)

I sold TVs and Computers. Well, let me correct that. I was trained to sell extended warranties in the TV and Computer section of the store.

Corporate had shifted their focus on finding instant upsell items (with very little value) for a price that would benefit, for the most part, only the management of the company. Yes, the employee got a little incentive payment for selling the Extended Service Plan. But, the majority of the profits went directly into the pockets of the company.

Remember my article last week about “going deep” and not wide? Apparently all of the well-educated MBAs and all the legal eagles and all the “experts” with the experience who got paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each year couldn’t figure out the “deep, not wide” mentality.

Sears’ corporate management were more about “me” then they were about “my customer.” And, it showed.

This is a lesson you won’t have to take a test for. It’s seen every time you interact with a customer.

  • Respect your customer (they’re king, remember?)
  • Care for your customer (they’re paying your salary, remember?)
  • Serve your customers needs (they either need what you sell, or they don’t, remember?)
  • KNOW your customer (they’re your most valuable relationship as a business, remember?)

Wow! Four hundred and twenty words to communicate WHY this is an important lesson for your business to grow.

Don’t be like Sears. Learn from the lessons of history so you aren’t doomed to repeat it.


As a business owner you’ve got to know your customer. Intimately.


  • If you don’t know your customer intimately, how will you know how you can solve their problems?
  • If you don’t know your customer intimately, how will you find others just like him or her?
  • If you don’t know your customer, how will you ever position your business to grow with their needs?

So, how will you know your customers that well?

  • You have to spend time with your customers if you want to grow your business
  • You have to listen to your customers if you want to grow your business
  • You have to live with your customers if you want to grow your business

Grow Your Business By Spending Time With Your Customers

When I was in high school, I did some work for an insurance salesman.

I was always confused. He spent more time at the little league fields during the summer than he did calling customers. So, one day, I asked him why.

“That’s where my customers, and people like them are, my boy!”

He didn’t go to the ball field because his son was playing (his son was in High School with me). No, he spent hours and hours at the local ball fields in the hot, sweltering south Mississippi sun and humidity.

I don’t think he ever sold a policy while he was on the fields.

But, he set some appointments!

How did he do it? Here’s what he told me.

“Phillip, you know something about going to a ball field that gets me appointments? They all have boys playing ball,” he said. That wisdom didn’t help me at all. Until he continued.

“Not only that, they’ve got houses. They either own ’em, or they rent ’em. And, they’ve got at least one vehicle. And you know what all of those things need? They need insurance to protect them!” he preached.

“Boy, I know every boy on all the eight teems on those fields. I know their names, their birthdays, their grades in school, and if they like Ole Miss, Southern Miss, LSU or MSU!” he continued.

Going on, by this time, bragging on himself, but still teaching me some, he said, “Heck! I bet I even know what size panties their mommas wear!”

I’m not sure I’d have admitted that one!

But, he drove home the point. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS!!!! INTIMATELY!!!

How did he get to know his customers?

He spent time with them. And, he didn’t do all of the talking.

One day, after this conversation, he asked me to go fill in for the score keeper. So, I did.

Mr. Boyles usually had a very loud and distinctive voice.

I expected to hear him the whole time I was working in the press box. But, I never heard more than about 50 words from him through the entirety of two games. (And, he was sitting no more than about 25 feet from me all night).

Mr. Boyles spent the entire night listening.

He listened to the mommas talking to daddies about their sons. He listened to mommas complaining to their husbands about the house. He listened to daddies talking to other daddies about their cars, or trucks. And, he listened to their sons come up and talk to both momma and daddy about wanting something to eat, or how their day was, or what they did for the rest of the day.

And, by listening — paying attention — and caring about all of them, he learned.

I’ll never forget the first day I got a call from a mother of one of the boys on the field.

“Can you tell me how Mr. Boyles knew my little Charlie’s birthday was today?” she asked me.

I think he must have heard Mrs. Sproles talking to Mr. Sproles about the expense and frustration of planning a birthday party for a boy who had an entire baseball team as friends.

That’s how Mr. Boyles knew his customers. He spent time with them — listening — paying attention to them, because he cared about them.

Well, that was back in 1981.

Today, we can do some things a little differently, and even a little less intrusively.

But, you can get the information. you need about your customers down to a perfect fit, if you choose.

I’ve got a plan to help you begin getting intimately in touch with your customers. Not down to a granular level, but close.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can grow your business, even when times are touch, by knowing your customers, then look for all of my articles in the Know Your Customer category.

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August 2022

Phillip Swindall

133 Mountary Circle
Gadsden, Alabama 35901
(256) 504-4198

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