The most important person in your customer’s world

Have you ever completed one of those online personality profiles? Possibly the Myers-Briggs or DISC? Or maybe you glance at your stars occasionally?

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that we are often drawn to finding out more about ourselves, most probably to validate what we already think we know?  

It’s all about me (I mean, you)

It is this curiosity about ourselves on which some clever businesses have capitalised. They’ve understood the most important person in your customer’s world is … themselves. Here are some examples that come to mind.

1. Which fruit is your perfect match?

If you were looking to date a piece of fruit, which fruit would be perfect for you? That’s the quirky subject of Boost Juice’s Facebook Messenger chatbot, which combines artificial intelligence (AI) with a customer’s answers to match them to a piece of fruit. It’s Tinder for the fruit-curious. Early reports showed strong user interaction and engagement as 18-24 year olds swiped left and right for their chance to “date” a key smoothie ingredient.

2. Which dog looks like you?

It’s said that dogs look like their owners, so how better to choose a dog to adopt than find one that looks like you? Pedigree launched its award winning Dog-A-Like App a few years ago (video here) and successfully re-homed thousands of dogs. While sadly it looks like Dog-A-Like is no longer available, Microsoft brought its App “Fetch” to market last year based on the same self-image matching principles, although without the social cause to substantiate its existence.

3. Spotify of fashion

If you are not sure what to wear, why not check out fashion site Jamie & I, which uses AI and a short quiz to curate your wardrobe. The founders explain they were inspired by how music streaming service Spotify crafts playlists around personal preferences, and thought they could use the same concept to overcome choice paralysis in fashion. “You start out all excited, but then you click through the next three pages and you’re over it, because there’s such an information overload,” they said. 

4. Habit types

To help people work out which habits strategy is best for them, author Gretchen Rubin provides a quiz for people to work out whether they are an “Upholder”, “Questioner”, “Rebel” or “Obliger”.

The key to each of these engagement initiatives is that they are designed around the customer’s inbuilt egotist. As described by renown behavioural scientist Robert Cialdini in the book Pre-suasion, “support for the idea that people are generally egocentric in their attentions can be seen in a wide variety of investigations”.

Implications for your business

Clearly personalisation is the way digital is going. Algorithms and AI are increasingly chopping generic content into a tailored offer. Our digital footprint is being scooped up and used to curate news, entertainment, products and services that someone thinks we need.

But you may not yet be in a position to mould your offerings to an individual’s characteristics or preferences. Indeed most businesses I have worked in or with have been struggling still with the basics of knowing a customer’s name, gender and age (which may not even be relevant).

There are things you can do, however, to tap into your customer’s self-centricity and better engage them. Here are three areas on which to focus.


What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM) is the question your customer will be asking when they contemplate buying your goods or services. Ensure you build a case around what committing to you means for them — what’s the payoff? This means your value proposition needs to be written from your customer’s perspective (what problem are they trying to solve rather than what you do); requests for them to join your mailing list need to be accompanied by an exchange of value (what do they get?); and your “About Us” section needs to be framed as what it all means for them. They don’t care about your history and philosophy, they care about what your history and philosophy means for them.  

2. Self-relevant cues

Your choice and use of pronouns (I, you, he, she) can impact customer behaviour. For instance, ads with self-relevant descriptors like “you” rather than “people” have been found to increase recall and positive ratings when they were supported by a strong argument (here and here). I recommend their use when you are trying to convey connection with your customer.

However, you have to be careful about when and how you use personal names and pronouns for two reasons. Firstly, they can antagonise your audience if you have presumed a relationship they doesn’t feel exist, and secondly, too many “I” statements (“I have decided”, “I think”) or blame-y “you” statements (“you haven’t”, “you did”) can make your customer defensive and/or resentful. Remember, no one likes being told!

3. Avoiding the next-in-line effect

Imagine you are sitting in a team meeting or pitch and people are speaking in turn. As you take your seat, it’s worth remembering you are better sitting away from the person whom you want to most pay attention to your message. Sitting next to them means they will miss what you contribute because they will be too focussed on what they themselves have to say.

If you are a team leader or facilitator, bear this in mind when asking people to give a report or introduce themselves on the spot. They are unlikely to pay any attention to anyone before or after them. Attenuate this by giving everyone time to prepare prior to the first person speaking.

So what do you think? Are we as self-absorbed as the behavioural literature suggests? Have you spotted other businesses tapping into curiosity about ourselves? 

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