The Most Important Lesson I Learnt While Building The Sorbet Brand

Knowing your customer does not mean knowing their name, birthdate, what skincare product they bought yesterday and how many manicures they enjoy a month. It's much deeper than that.

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I spent the last ten years of my career as the Head of Marketing for the Sorbet Group, a chain of 200 odd beauty salons around South Africa.


I came out of it with one realisation: if your company goals and your customer goals are not aligned, you might be swimming upstream.

What a deep obsession with your customer actually means

We all know the famous sayings of "customer is king', the "customer is always right' and having a "customer-centric' approach, but how deep does our obsession with our customer really go?

How many of us truly understand our customer? And I mean truly, genuinely and whole heartedly, not just on paper.

Related: Ian Fuhr Explains Why He Likes To Launch Businesses In Unfamiliar Industries And How He Made Sorbet A Success

Knowing your customer does not mean knowing their name, birthdate, what skincare product they bought yesterday and how many manicures they enjoy a month.

Having a deep obsession with your customer means knowing that Katie has three children under the age of 11, she loves doing triathlons and her and her hubby have a passion for travelling.

It's not knowing her, it's understanding her. Understanding what makes her tick, what other brands she loves and what the things are that she values in life.

I admit, it sounds a bit creepy, but it's not really. By understanding Katie, you can connect with her in a way that moves her; you can talk about the things she really cares about.

You start to understand why Katie comes to you and what she wants out of you and where you fit into her life.

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You start to get a much clearer picture of her goals, and once you have this gold nugget of knowledge, you've started swimming down-stream, where you can spend less time convincing her and more time influencing her.

What do your customers feel when they think of you?

Here's an example that might put it into perspective.

When my father, Ian Fuhr, started Sorbet 15 years ago, his goal was to be "the No.1 beauty salon chain in the country'. Dream big right? It was splashed all over our strategy documents, on our website and in our training.

Number One. That was our goal. Nothing short would suffice. Let me ask you a very important question in two words (as a mentor once told me, probably the two most important words you'll ever ask yourself in business): Who cares?

Our guests go to Sorbet to feel happy. Unless a guest was happier when she walked out of a Sorbet than when she walked in, happier, more confident and with a smile on her face, we had failed.

This was the game-changer in our business. The realisation that we were built on a feeling. That same guest I just mentioned did not care if we were number one or number two in the country. She was there to feel special, not to boost our ego or our place in the ranks of beauty salons.

Related: How Sorbet Franchisee Kate Holahan Is Nailing Success By Following Her Dream

Worse, our therapists could have cared even less. As long as their job was meaningful, they did not care if they worked for the number one or number nine chain in the country.

Moving away from "I' to "we'

The realisation hit us hard: Our company goal and our customer goal did not align. At all. Why? Well simply put, our company goal was like very many company goals out there, ego-centric. I, I, I, me, me, me.

Many of us out there want the fame, the shiny award, and the high status, but the people that want to love us and use us don't care. And so, at Sorbet, we changed our goal to "touching people's lives'. We no longer focused on being Number One – we focused on our guests.

We focused more on the purpose and less on the reward. Ironically, by doing this, we became the number one beauty salon chain in the country anyway.

Pulling it all together

I once heard an interesting story about a business mogul in the US that would send his customers an email about new products and offerings – Every. Single. Day. A bit much, right? Every morning, he would come into the marketing department and excitedly ask "How many people unsubscribed today?"

"300," they would answer. "Excellent," he would reply. "300 less people I need to waste my time and resources on that don't care about us."

To sum it all up, spend time finding out what your customers really care about, make that your company goal and then make it work really hard for you. It's important to dig deep, constantly question and re-evaluate your vision to keep learning and growing.

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