Stop Trying To Emulate Amazon, Start Listening To Your End Customers

Too many companies today are trying to emulate, or even copy, the strategies of their competitors thinking it will help their business in the same way it helped the other.

Take Amazon, for example. Amazon is widely successful in its strategies and would seem like a great business model. But if all you do is copy Amazon, you won’t get the result you need.

Although patterning your strategy off of other successful businesses seems like a viable approach, it won’t get you where you want to go in the end. You’ll always be right behind your competitor. It’s a major pitfall, and easy to fall into.

The important thing to remember is that every company is unique, and the value they deliver to their end customer is unique as well.

Because of this, we like to advise companies to stop trying to ‘out-Amazon Amazon.’  You won’t get there by trying to copy or tag along behind them.

Stop following. Start leading!

Here are the things to do instead:

Organize Your Team to Succeed

Organize your business around understanding the end user and their needs, rather than focusing on what other companies are doing. Your customer needs should drive your strategies. Listening to them is one of the top priorities. Spend less time talking and more time listening to what your end customers’ needs are and how you can best help them.

A great way to start organizing is to create a team that can create the vision and set the course for the company to become the leader in that market. This team will be key, so how do you train them? How can you structure them to get market-backed intelligence and start innovating around it? What should that team look like?

Let’s look at two different teams: the sales-driven team, and the business-driven team.

The Sales-Driven Team

The sales-driven team is focused on capturing and understanding immediate customer needs, like delivering the product and other current services requested by the customer. Their KPI’s are different as well.

This team is sales-driven, revenue-driven, margin-driven, and in charge of making sure deliveries are on time.

Essentially, they look after the short-term responsibilities, working to serve customers’ immediate product service requirements.

It’s important to keep in mind that the sales team also isn’t designed to do voice-of-customer (VOC) research for your business. They’re designed to understand customer needs and to solve those problems. So don’t put them in that position or rely on them to bring VOC back to your organization.

Create your team to do both, instead.

That will allow each team member to focus on their primary responsibilities and keep the team running smoothly as a whole.

The Business-Driven Team

This team works to understand how the customers go to market. They then apply that knowledge to modify the business structure or the go-to-market strategy to adapt and adjust to the needs of the customers.

As you look at the different functions of the sales-driven and business-driven teams, you’ll see that one looks at how to serve end customers from a sales perspective, and the second is based on how a business redefines itself in serving those customers at large. You can also view them as the current state versus the future state.

So many businesses rely on the sales team to bring the voices of their end customers back into the organization. The problem with this approach is that they’re focused only on the current state and solving immediate pain, not how you’re going to succeed in the future.

Building a winning strategy will come from balancing both of the states (and teams). You aren’t following the competition. Instead, you’re building your own strategy for your own customer set.

Collective Collaboration

If you’re a distributor, look across the entire supply chain from its beginning until it reaches the end customer. What does it say about your end users’ needs?

You’ll want to bring in their voice and share the intelligence you’re getting with manufacturing suppliers to create joint innovation. Bring your new ideas and new solutions for the end customers’ supply chain to address their specific requirements.

If you’re a manufacturer, you should bring in the voice of the customer as well. Share with your distributors and partner with them. This extends the value you bring to the table by leveraging distributors to provide new levels of service, whether it be pre- or post-purchase of that product. It might bring in new delivery options too.

This partnership and joint innovation to expand your value to end customers is something we like to call Collective Collaboration.

Leverage all the inputs you’ve collected, and collaboratively go to the market together to develop and deploy that winning strategy.


To summarize, here are some points of action for both distributors and manufacturers as they move forward:

  1. Talk less, listen more
  2. Build teams that listen
  3. Partner with your manufacturers/distributors

As you work on those three things, you’ll be able to create your unique winning strategy without having to copy any of your competitors’ strategies. Instead of always being a follower, you’ll be able to lead in the industry, create better relationships and teams, and build plans for future success.

Thoughts? Questions?

As always, feel free to reach out to talk in greater depth about these and other issues impacting your business.