By Roger Robinson, Ph.D., Certified SCORE Mentor

Mentoring clients, particularly new clients, invariably reaches a roadblock when you ask them to explain the business they are actually in. The usual responses tend to be in terms of what they do, not the benefit they provide their customer/client, i.e. what the customer/client really wants. For example someone who applies paint to the inside or outside of a home usually describes themselves as painters. But if that is all the customer really wants, could they not do that themselves? As my late colleague, Marty Robbins, often pointed out, they are really in the business or creating an ambiance, an environment, new surroundings for their customer.

Let me give you further examples, if you ask the airlines what business they are in, the usual responses center around transportation. Granted that is important, but is that the first and foremost factor on the minds of most fliers? From my point of view the real business of airlines is “live arrivals”! After all what is more important then arriving safely on terra firma. After that occurs, then all the other issues such as timeliness, luggage, comfort, etc, come into play.

Another example is what business are hospitals in? Sure their business focus is health, but as a patient what do I want most? How about “live departures”? What is more important then being able to walk out of these institutions? That clearly is my goal. Some further examples are what business are the railroads in? Of course they run trains, but for what purpose? How about “stuff movers”.  Or newspapers? Surely their business is not news, today we get that news immediately from our phones or our TV, etc. I like to think of newspapers as “sources of information”. Even Disney will tell you that they are not in the parks business, they are in the business of “making people happy”.

So what is the key to understanding what business you are really in? From my point of view it is understanding WIIFM from the customer/clients point of view. What is WIIFM? It stands for “What’s In It For Me.” Always bear in mind that every customer/client when appraising your product or service, asks him/herself this question “WIIFM?”

About the Author(s)

Roger S. Robinson (1927-2019)

Over a period of 50 years, following the Navy, Roger created and successfully operated a multi-unit entertainment, recreation enterprise in Michigan. During this time frame he was responsible for the entire organization including such activities as strategic planning, marketing, finances, personnel, etc. 

Certified SCORE Mentor, Instructor, Greater Phoenix SCORE
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