You Are Not the Customer

Product Business

Your marketing team worked really hard to investigate your target customer. They worked on segments and did customer interviews. They spend tons of time and money and crafted personas. Maybe they even gave them names (though I prefer roles).

The introduced the personas to everyone – from sales to support, from product to engineering. And they did training so you could dig in and really understand who these personas were. The goal was to help you, in whatever role you're in, to build and market your products better to your target segments.

It sounded like a great idea. It was supposed to work. And then this happens….

Someone in the room says, “I know that persona. I AM that persona.” That's all they need to steal the conversation (and energy in the room) to make it so that their opinion is the one to listen to because they are, after all, the same as the persona.

But this is not true. It's neither accurate nor helpful.

They are not your target customer. They never have been. They never will be.

You, if you've done this before, are not your target customer. You may have had an itch. You might have had a sense of a problem that you wanted to solve.

But from that moment back then, to now, you've taken a completely different path than your customer. You have, after all, spent time getting to know and understand the space more deeply. You've invested far more time and energy in it than they have.

You are no longer the customer, even if one day you might have been.

I can't tell you how many times in the last few years I've heard this rationalization.

“I am the target customer.”

I've heard it at work. I have heard it from friends. I have heard it from coaching clients. I've heard it from founders.

It's not true. You are not the customer.

The best thing you can do is remember that. Learn it. Trust it. And trust them instead of your own opinion. Having an opinion, even a strong opinion, is fine. But don't let it run over the reality that lots of other people have had lots of other experiences other than you.

Your experience is your own. It does not resemble or represent everyone's experience.

In the world of data and surveys, you'll often see the sample size below the results of the survey. It says, “n=24,000” and that tells you that they talked to 24 thousand people. That's important because they're likely telling you that 47% of the population believes something. They didn't actually talk to 47% of the population. They spoke with a random but significant sample size.

If you've never heard me talk about this before, you've likely heard me say something different. It's my shorthand for dealing with this problem.


That's how I characterize what I'm hearing. One data point. Not statistically significant. Valuable but not representative. Why?

Because you are not the customer.

Sign up for free content. People still do that.

Thousands of folks (7000+) regularly get my posts in their inbox. For free.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit