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Photo credit: © van der Gun


In the Chapman household, we do our best to eat a healthy, sensible diet the majority of the time. One of the ways we accomplish this is by scrutinizing the ingredient labels on all the food we purchase (thanks to my wife, Christy). As I’ve come to learn, one ingredient we do our best to avoid is high-fructose corn syrup.

One thing I really enjoy is enhancing the flavor of my food using different sauces. Salsa, ketchup, hot sauce and various marinades usually show up in some form on our table. Until I met Christy, I had used Heinz brand ketchup my entire life. Since I never inspected labels myself, I didn’t know that Heinz ketchup contains high-fructose corn syrup.

Based on this fact, we switched brands many years ago to Annie’s ketchup, which has the more natural ingredients we prefer. We were a bit puzzled when we traveled to Europe and Australia and discovered that the same Heinz ketchup in those markets does not contain high-fructose corn syrup (and it tasted the same to us).

Why does the ketchup contain that added ingredient in the U.S. market? My guess is … profitability!

It really doesn’t matter to us why Heinz puts that ingredient in the product. What matters is that we’re the customers and we make the buying decisions. Therefore, it’s about us, not them!

Regardless of Heinz’s reason for its ingredient choice, we switched brands because the company could not meet our needs.

Consider for a moment how this applies to your business. Ketchup is an interchangeable product and so are the services we provide. It could be after-hours emergency service, regular rates on the weekends, guaranteed on-time appointments, well-trained communicators as front-line team members, great customer service agents and many other aspects of our business.

You probably already know what the “ketchup” is for your company (and no, it’s not always price!).

If your customers’ wants, needs and desires are not being met effectively, they will switch brands in an instant, just like my family did. They have so many choices and options when it comes to companies that provide our products and services, we must be continuously improving our service delivery processes.

Recently, we were in a natural grocery store in Scottsdale, Ariz., and I noticed that Heinz has a new ketchup product called Simply Heinz. I wasn’t surprised when I picked up the bottle and noticed that the front label clearly stated, “NO high-fructose corn syrup.” The company obviously realized that consumer demands are changing and this is its attempt to give its customers what they want.

Now the big question is: Will we switch back? I grew up on Heinz. It’s familiar. It’s the only brand I knew. But now, after so many years with a brand that is consistently conscious of the same things my family is, will we switch back?

The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t do most of the grocery shopping for the Chapman household, so this will be Christy’s decision. She’s the target customer that Heinz must attempt to sway back in its direction, not me.


What’s your company’s ‘ketchup’?

The same is true in your company. You need to know who are your perfect customers. Only once you identify them can you begin to understand the key things that are important to them. If you don’t give them what they want, whatever it is, someone else will.

The reality is that Christy is much more of a target customer for Annie’s brand than Heinz. This is fine, as long as it was a conscious decision regarding whom the company markets to, what products its target client will invest in and maximizing its market share in its chosen space. Heinz has done just fine without us for years.

You can’t be all things to all people. It very well could be time to redefine who you want to be everything to and build your core competencies around that demographic. This will encompass how much value, time and resources you invest in training, coaching and developing your culture around this target.

Ferrari couldn’t care less that Toyota, Honda and Hyundai are going head-to-head for the top position in auto sales, because Ferrari is very clear when it comes to understanding exactly who is its perfect customer. It is not marketing and building products for the mainstream Toyota customer.

This allows Ferrari to be incredibly specific with every action it takes as a company. This clarity allows it to focus all its time, energy and investments into improving programs and training its team to better satisfy that target’s needs regarding Ferrari products.

The ketchup in your business is a product or service that your exact target market values more than the run-of-the-mill product made for the masses. These are the services that your specific target market is willing to invest more in with your company because of how well you do what you do for this specific type of buyer.


Who’s your company’s ‘Christy’?

Who are you specifically targeting when you design your marketing pieces and when you consider operational changes and enhancements? What areas do you need to improve to keep your target customers happier and attract more just like them? What have you been doing for a while that might not be serving their needs and desires any longer?

I’m sure you will be able to identify some things you need to let go of that are still happening only because “you’ve always done it that way.”

If you haven’t identified your exact target customers, you need to do it now. If you don’t know who they are, how will you identify their specific wants and needs? If you don’t identify their specific wants and needs, how can you even be sure they will be satisfied with your company?

If you don’t know what your target customers need, it gives your competition the chance to provide them with what they desire. Trying to get those customers back is costly and difficult.

 Identify and give your customers what they want and, in turn, you will have what you want: a highly successful business.