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Book Review: The Must-Have Customer
Author: Debbie May
Friday, May 6, 2016

The “Must-Have Customer” is an old-school business book that every emerging or growing business should read. It takes you set-by-step through the process of identifying three critical customer groups and inspires you to find ways to serve their needs. In my opinion, this book is nearly an entire MBA program rolled up into 300 valuable, easy to read pages.

Debbie May’s Favorite Quote from this Book:
“Identifying your core customers is a relatively straight forward process – it’s all about shared values. Your core customers value the attributes that make your product or services different. If, for example, your key point of differentiation is that you offer personalized service, that’s your core customer’s value. Without those shared values, your relationship with the customer is purely transactional and you cannot count on repeat business. You might make a sale every once in a while, but you can’t count on any repeat business. Your core customers, on the other hand, have done business with you for a long time. They’re loyal, pay a price that provides you with a reasonable profit, are easy to deal with and pay their bills on time. In short, core customers are the kind of customers you wish you had more of.”
Book Summary
The “Must Have Customer” begins by profiling three types of customers that every business encounters. They are core customers, opportunistic customers and must-have customers. The focus of the book is that business success is not about beating the competition. It is about understanding and serving these three customer groups.  The goal of every business should be to strive to gain the “Must- Have” customer. Gordman defines the three groups as this:
  • Core Customers are loyal customers who love your products or services, are willing to pay a fair price and account for 20 percent of your base;
  • Opportunistic Customers are the 80 percent of your base who you only see when you're having a sale. Since they usually end up costing you more money than they're worth to your business, you may need to "fire" them;
  • Must-Have Customers are those who could become your core customers, provided you can get their attention and prove that you can meet their needs.
The author then takes you through seven steps to gaining the “Must-Have” Customer.
Implications for Business
I absolutely love this book and it is my “go to” read at the start of each New Year. It is my favorite book because growing a business can be difficult. I find reading gives perspective and helps me put the competition in focus. A lazy business owner can easily copy the competition. The problem with copying is that it doesn’t produce long-term results for growing a sustainable business. It simply makes you a clone and will eventually lead to price commoditization, a situation in which every business loses. 

In the handmade soap industry I often see fighting among cold process soap makers and melt and pour soap makers. The whole “mine’s better than yours” argument. I have always felt that was sad because people engaging in that behavior don’t seem to realize the two are really not competitors. Shoppers that buy cold process soap do so because it is all natural while shoppers buying melt and pour soap are doing so for design and fragrance. This book helps readers understand why defining product and service core values is vital for growing a business.

The only thing missing from this book is an emphasis on the importance of defining  a company vision. It is my opinion that a business needs to define “who they want to be” and “what they stand for” so that they can engage in thoughtful product development. It is only then they can listen to shoppers and identify their core customer.

Are you able to put down on paper the core values of your company and how that translates into your products? I hope you can and have then been able to use this book in your next steps for greater success.

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