Don or Biff?

While training at The Weight Club to thwart various injuries and to try a dream or two, I pass personal trainer Don Belote with his clients and overhear snippets of conversation.

“Baste it with butter,” he says to one client. “He should have caught that!” he says to another.

With one client, Don is intently silent, seeming to propel some of his own formidable will to the client, who is obviously injured and painstakingly lifting one leg, then the other.

All businesses want repeat customers and often win them with diversified products and services, add-ons, or new versions. Year after year, day after day, Don offers 1.0.

“Hi, I’m your new personal trainer, Biff! I can six-pack your abs, pep your pecs, and bulletize your biceps! I’m certified, amplified, and deified! Let’s rock!”

In the high-tech start-up biz, the product or service is so dynamic, so novel, so potentially transformative—it just rocks!—that we can become awed by its creation and lose sight of for whom it was created.

In business lingo, Don provides custom solutions for his end users. He develops relationships with diverse customers in diverse ways to help them use the product for their own goals. He doesn’t enumerate benefits for the client. He directly benefits the client.

It’s not that Biff is bad. Biff is probably really cool. But it’s all about Biff.

A lead article in the weekend print edition of The Wall Street Journal (January 12-13, 2008), read, “Consumer Woes Start to Damp U.S. Economy: After Years of Resilience Many Ease Spending; Businesses See Fallout.”

In the kind of climate where customers choose carefully for the most value for their dollars, and businesses risk their livelihoods if they sell products and services instead of serve customers, to whom are customers most likely to turn?

Don or Biff?


  1. I'd be willing to bet that when Don got into personal training eight years ago, he never thought he'd be the subject of customer relationship-management blog post. My how things change …

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