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3 Ways To Put Your Customers' Needs First -- And Increase Your Profits in the Process How to build a brand that thrives when customers succeed.

By CJ Forse Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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When my company fails to make a sale I feel sick to my stomach, but not for the reasons you might think.

No, I'm not some greedy businessman, nor some scammy internet marketer living in my parents' basement. My squirrelly stomach happens because our company, The Feel Good Lab, is centered on helping people. And when they don't buy, I know that we've done them a disservice. We haven't met their goals.

For modern brands to survive they need to be built around customer goals. Everything else must come second.

Below are three steps we took to build our company with customers at the center. Plus, the surprising outcomes of doing so.

Step 1: Bridge the gap between "before" and "after."

Think about your customers and ask yourself what their situation is before they purchase your product and where do they want to be after? Describe what they're experiencing, thinking, feeling, both before and after your product enters their world. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Now, here's the trick. Write down everything that's holding them back from getting from before to after. For us, this revealed dozens of barriers that we could help our community overcome. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Our customers are hesitant to try new products because they feel like they've "tried everything."

  • Our customers often get poor results from pain relief products because they're not given easy-to-follow education on how to effectively use them.

The list goes on and on. What barriers are holding back your customers from getting from before to after?

Related: 11 Tips on How to Handle Customer Complaints

Step 2: Help customers overcome barriers.

Now, remember that your products are only part of the solution. Because everything you do as a brand should focus on making that path to after faster and easier.

Pin your customers' barriers on a wall. Stare at them. Analyze them. Use them as inspiration for your next business move, even when it's not clear how you'll make money from it right away. The money will come when you're genuinely helping people overcome what's holding them back.

For us, this approach has led to dozens of decisions that have made an enormous impact on our business and the rate of success for our customers.

Our "Honest Shot" guarantee is a great example.

It was inspired by the two barriers listed above, that is, hesitation around trying new products and lack of easy-to-follow education. So, we offered folks a deal. Follow our instructions to a tee, and if you don't feel a reduction in your pain, we'll give you your money back. And like any fair deal, we considered it a two-way street. We put the burden on ourselves to create instructions that really worked and were simple to follow.

Here's a challenge for you.

Imagine you were forced to offer a money-back guarantee on your product or service. If that makes you uncomfortable, that's a signal that you have work to do. It's time to start thinking of what support, services or education you could provide to make a guarantee that works for both your business and your customers.

Step 3: Make a "no inward-facing decisions" rule.

For every business decision, we ask ourselves, "How does this benefit our customers?" If it's a struggle to answer, we don't do it. Easier said than done, let me tell you.

Want to play a fun game? Ask your CFO that question when they are trying to save some cash by cutting a few corners. (Spoiler alert: it won't be a fun game.) But continuously having the conversation creates a culture of always putting customers first.

Pretend your customer is sitting beside you whenever you make a decision. How would you transparently explain why you're about to make that decision? That's the litmus test for doing good business today.

Related: 5 Customer Service Rules to Boost Your Profit by 18 Percent

A lot of good comes from focusing on helping customers before revenue and profit—not that we don't care about those things. Here are three surprising outcomes this process has had for us:

Outcome 1: We never have to make hard sells.

When you wholeheartedly build your products and brand with the focus of helping people, there's no need for any slimy sales pitch. It becomes about sharing what you've created because you know it will help. Sure, there's still work to be done to elegantly show off what you have to offer, but if you do things right, you nor your salespeople will ever have to have that shady feeling of "selling."

Outcome 2: Generating new ideas is easier.

The more we strive to help our customers, the more unique and exciting our ideas for future products become. Today, we have no shortage of ideas in our pipeline that we're certain our customers will love and want to buy. Why? Because each idea comes from a deep understanding of what's really going to help them.

Related: 3 Essentials for Building a Loyal Customer Base

Outcome 3: When our customers win, we win.

At the end of the day, we're a business. And to grow as a business, we must make a profit. But even when we look at the profit metric we look at it through the lens of helping our customers. Because profit allows us to make more great products, create even better experiences, and reach more people that need some help.

Here's the funny thing. The more we focus on helping, the more profitable we are becoming.

CJ Forse

Co-Founder of The Feel Good Lab

CJ is the co-founder of The Feel Good Lab, a modern brand for people fed up with today’s OTC pain relief aisle. He’s one part business leader, one part hack creative director, and a whole lotta parts geek. Before startup life, CJ was VP of a large Omnicom agency. He's since made a full recovery.

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