First....what is a "customer"? It is anyone that buys, uses, tests or you want to buy, use, test a product, module, feature you are creating, working on, testing, selling etc.
Now.....how do you usually get to know your customer? Look them up on the web? Look people up on LinkedIn, Facebook and even on My developerWorks to learn more about their background, interests and history? What about looking up information on their business and industry? Searching the web again are you? You can now check some interesting insights on the Industry zone
on developerWorks.....really....do check it out....they are looking for feedback.
But beyond the web.... what are ways to get to know the audience for what you are building, developing, project managing, testing etc?
- Volunteer to go through your customer's new hire training (I have to admit I did this with one of my customers - they were a fast food business and it was quite fun. I thought I knew their business as I was one of their regular customers....I was so wrong....very eye-opening...and definitely helped me design a better solution for them)
- Work at a corporate store to learn their business ( I sat in with the customer service desk at one of my customers and not only was that eye opening but also quite an earful..best way to really see how their business operated)
- Participate on an Industry association committee
- Attend an industry conference (I worked at my customer's booth at one of their conferences....a great way to hear from their customers....again...really helped me understand not only my customer's issues but also their customers' issues).
- Subscribe to an association periodical (why the hardcopy vs web? you can still do the web, but paper will allow you to see the placement of the articles and ads too....a great way to see positioning of the industry, business and competitors in the area...in fact...consider local and national periodicals).
- Increase your understanding of what your customer's "pain" and therefore what you need to build, design, test etc
- Increase credibility with your peers, your management, and your clients
- Increase your exposure and reach....perhaps becoming not only a hot shot in your technology but also one with Industry-specific knowledge