You’ll hear many definitions of what exactly a business is out there. I’m not here to dissuade you from any definitions you have heard before but would rather speak about a particular definition that will help me make the point you have read in the title; the goal of a business is to create customers. This may sound a little weird on the first time of reading but if you bear with me it will make sense and you will have the power in your hands to do the same.

A Business is a system of processes

A business is a system of processes that are coordinated to provide a product to a customer at a profit. Let’s focus on that first part; a system of processes. I love this definition because it accurately explains what is business is and what it does. If you sell electronics for example your processes include sourcing, inward and outbound logistics, selling and collecting payment. Whether executed by a single individual, a team, outsourced or by any mix of these the processes work in a predictable system to provide the product (good or service) to a customer.

A Business is a customer

I have the fortune of being asked by many people who are just starting businesses or have business ideas what is most important and my answer is always the same; a business is a customer. You can have a business without a logo, or registration, or offices but you cannot have a business without a customer. The same could be said for a product but we will not go into that since it dilutes my point. The point is customers are the most important part of the business. They pay for the whole party. The misconception for many is the “build it and they will come” thinking. Unfortunately, customers are not that easy to come by. In very few cases do you find a ready-made customer and where you do I can guarantee you that someone else put in the work to create the customer?

Creating customers

When I say creating customers this is not the act of creating people. It is the investment that goes into converting someone from their current behaviour to new behaviour, the behaviour of regularly buying your product from your business. This is key. Contrary to “build it and they will come2 thinking customers are not sitting around twiddling their thumbs and wondering when a solution to their problem will emerge. In the best of cases, they have a makeshift solution that is somehow inadequate or incomplete. In other cases, they may not be aware they have a problem. Sounds crazy but think of products like tablets and smartwatches.  The customer need was not clear before their existence but in the third quarter of 2020 global shipments totalled 47.6 million units. Impressive.

How are customers created?

There are a few things that go into creating customers. We have discussed some of them at great length on this platform. The first thing is identifying a need. Or as the lingo goes solving a problem. It’s not enough to be solving a problem, it is important to attach your solution to the correct problem. This helps in communicating to customers that you are the right solution. Secondly, customer onboarding is a big part of creating customers. In simple terms, onboarding is about educating customers to make them great customers. Say you make skincare products. An example of onboarding is educating clients about their skin and why your products are great for their skin.

Customers want more than product and price

As a nation, we have been through a lot. Markets in Zimbabwe are in tatters. Due to economic malaise that has left no part of life untouched our markets, for the most part, have gone back to basics, or so it seems. Many business conversations seem to descend to matters of price first and then product. Nothing else. In reality, this is a result of the seller’s market. The scarcity of products has for a long time tipped the balance to sellers. This doesn’t mean it’s the only or the right way to do business. This may be hard to consistently empirically prove but I’m willing to stick my neck out and say the most successful businesses are paying attention to the details their customers care about. So perhaps your business can do a bit more to attend to the details your market cares about.

All in all, your business should actively create customers. For even if you were to capture 100% market share your only hope for growth thereafter comes from growing the market as a whole. Creation of customers is therefore the most important goal of any business.