We researched the customers, we visited their offices, we followed them around, and we conducted extensive online surveys.

Although the company was about to invest in a multi-million pound direct sales force, we discovered that the top 100 customers actually only accounted for around 10% of revenues. The vast majority of customers typically spent only £300 a year with them.

We also asked them if they liked the catalogues – for 50 % the response was ‘please stop sending us catalogues’.

Most importantly, we discovered these customers bought health and safety products 3 - 4 times a month on average, but only bought from this company twice each year. Why? – because they were more expensive, excellent quality but expensive.

The growth strategy in a nutshell: this business did not need to find new customers. Nor did it need to develop new products. It simply needed to sell more of its existing products to its existing customers.


Using our research, we identified 24 core needs of the customer including fast delivery, convenient website, cost effective solutions, ease of purchase, etc. We grouped these needs into three core areas to remodel the business on: empathy, expertise and ease.

The result was a positioning around ‘Safety made easy’ – we make the right stuff and we make your life easier.

To help the Executive embrace this new direction, we introduced them to their customers – we had identified three key user personas ‘Manic Mike’, ‘Steady Eddie’ and ‘Basic Beth’.

Everyone instantly recognised Mike and Steve as common personalities that they knew from many of their clients. However, few recognized Beth, and all were shocked to find that she represented nearly 60% of customers that bought from the business. Beth represented an office administrator who knew nothing about Health and Safety products but would be responsible for replacing things as and when they broke. The result was an instant recognition by the Exec that their technically overloaded catalogues and pricey products were not supporting Beth’s needs.


Our research highlighted that cost was a major barrier for many customers and so we recommended that the business followed the example of Waitrose, compressing the four very similar brands into one and developing an essentials range. The added benefit was that the remaining brand could now be embossed on all products being sold, reigniting the image as the grand-daddy of the industry.

Having identified that the core client types each had very different needs, we also changed how people interacted with the business. Customer service now focused on providing expert relevant advice for Beth, as well as the usual customer services for Mike and Eddie.

The website was altered so that Mike could have one-click purchases to help save time, Eddie had access to technically detailed specs to help him make decisions, and Beth was given ratings and reviews to help her choose products.

Most interestingly, the catalogue also changed. Our research showed that the catalogue did not generate sales, but captured them. Beth generally either threw them in the bin, or used the most recent one of her desk when she needed to buy something (and then threw it away). By moving the company away from sending millions of Screwfix style paper catalogues, to a few thousand high quality, glossy manuals that would be kept as a reference tool, rather than thrown in the bin.


This fundamentally remodeled customer led business went on to significantly increase their revenue and roll out the same model in the rest of their territories.

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