GroupLife Philosophy: Who Is Your Customer?

Have you ever slowed down long enough to think about the design of your small group ministry?  Yesterday we talked about developing an understanding of the business you are really in.  Today I want to another very important concept in the design of your small group ministry: an awareness of your customer.

Here’s an important building block: Before we even get started, please take a moment to think about customers from an arena that might feel more familiar; the arena of business.  Specifically, let’s think about the restaurant business.  I think you’ll see this right away.

McDonald’s: Who do you think McDonald’s would say is their customer?  You might think they’re designed to appeal to everyone, but that’s really not the case.  Is it?  Aren’t they primarily focusing on people who need an inexpensive,  convenient (hence the drive-thru), and predictable (all McDonald’s offer the same menu and experience).  What about their marketing to children?  Think the Happy Meal is a key component?

Chili’s: Compare Chili’s with McDonald’s.  Think they’d say their customer is the same?  They’re menu is more expensive.  While both restaurants offer hamburgers, they’re not the same right?  Chili’s menu is broader in the sense that it has more than sandwiches and nuggets.  And although you can dine in at McDonald’s, it’s a very utilitarian experience (unless you’re a kid and there’s a play area).  Chili’s seating area offers booth seating and the bar area has the game playing.  It’s more comfortable.

Outback and Ruth’s Chris: Both Outback and Ruth’s Chris are steakhouses, right?  Think their customers are the same?  While it’s true that the Outback customer will occasionally visit Ruth’s Chris and in a pinch a Ruth’s Chris customer will eat at Outback…don’t you think they’re really not interchangeable?  No they’re not.

So…Who Is Your Customer?

Now that you’ve looked at the restaurant illustration, can you begin to identify your customer?  Obviously, when McDonald’s corporate executives think about their business, they’re not thinking about adding a menu item that will really draw in the Ruth’s Chris customer.  They know that those are two separate market segments.

Do you think that way?  Here’s what I mean:

When you are developing an understanding of your customer, you need to identify the kind of people you are trying to connect.  Just like McDonald’s, Chili’s, Outback and Ruth’s Chris, you must develop the conviction that you’ll be most effective when you’re primary efforts are on appealing to the interests and needs of the segment you select.

As I pointed out yesterday, you can’t be all things to all people when it comes to choosing a business.  If you try…you become a cafeteria. And cafeterias almost never are exceptional.

Can you provide next steps for everyone?  Yes, but you can do that in a way that clearly articulates who you are designed to reach.  Your primary focus should be on the segment you most want to connect.

What do you think?  Got a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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Mark Howell
Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and ChurchCentral.com.