We don’t often think of Starbucks as being the new kid on the block. Yet, India Real Time, a blog published by the Wall Street Journal, fairly recently reported that the majority of India’s population of 1.2 billion people have never heard of it. Rather, their equivalent café experience is with Café Coffee Day (CCD) out of Bangalore. You may remember from my book, Leading the Starbucks Way that Starbucks has had fits and starts trying to get into India but in 2012 Starbucks began a strong foray in joint venture with Tata Coffee Group. There are now over 30 stores across India but their presence, growing slowly but intentionally, is dwarfed by Café Coffee Day. Moreover, CCD claims to have no plans to slow down their rate of expansion across India amid Starbucks’ arrival on the scene. During numerous trips to India, I have visited CCD and their approach to the coffee house experience is based largely on cost. K. Ramakrishnan, president of marketing at CCD, told The Wall Street Journal “We navigate around consumers, not the competition.” So powerfully stated, I had to read it again – “We navigate around consumers, not the competition.” In the case of CCD that means proliferating coffee houses for the masses of India, while Starbucks will take a more tactical approach to a different customer segment.
In a similar vein, Seth Godin blogged a provocatively simple question – who are your customers? Dismissing the usual sterile and demographic-focused answers, he challenged readers to think about customers a more relatable way – “What do they believe? Who do they trust? Who are their friends? What do they talk about?” and the like. Imagine…knowing your customers so intimately and then catering your business to them, irrespective of what “the other guys” are doing.
By getting to know your customers in an unparalleled way you are likely to differentiate your business and your strategy from the many brands that try to sell without listening. Will you be a CCD or a Starbucks? Your understanding of your customers should shape your approach.