Why Every Entrepreneur Should Read “Choose Your Customer”


Get insights from data you already collect that will help you choose your most profitable customer.


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What is one thing that every successful, profitable, high-cash flow business owner knows that struggling, cash-poor business owners don’t? Successful businesses actively choose their ideal customer and no amount of disruption, whether it’s a pandemic or a financial meltdown can get in the way of them connecting, engaging, and serving this customer

In fact, businesses who start with the customer first are like a living organism.  They evolve with their customer, they create new products and services and they never compete on price. 

What about you? Are you ready to stop competing on price?  Then hop on board with me and grab yourself a copy of Choose Your Customer: How to Compete Against the Digital Giants and Thrive by Jonathan Byrnes and John Wass.

About the Authors

Jonathan Byrnes and John Wass are the founder and CEO of Profit Isle. An MIT Software spinoff. He is also the author of Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink, an Inc Best Book for Business Owners and the writer of the popular HBS column “The Bottom Line”.

John Wass has held marketing positions at iconic companies like Procter and Gamble, Mars candy, and Fidelity Investments. He’s also a successful entrepreneur: he helped launch Staples with the original founders and grew his own startups after that.

Companies That Put Products First Are in Trouble

Choose Your Customer was triggered by a series of management meetings. The authors found themselves listening to CEOs and their teams struggle with understanding how to plug the giant sucking sound that Amazon and other digital giants were creating as they funnelled customers away from distributors. 

With more and more of their clients experiencing this problem, Byrnes and Wass created a software solution that conducted detailed analysis that allowed them to identify new opportunities for their clients.

In short, these companies needed to be managed a whole new way.  And that new way involved putting the customer at the center of everything.

How to Shift Your Focus From Products to Customers

Unlike some of these larger, more mature companies that the authors are talking about, shifting your focus from the details of your product to what your customer really wants won’t be quite as difficult. 

Choose Your Customer provides a simple 3-step guide for product-centered companies to compete against the giants.

  1. Focus on your most profitable customers
  2. Provide services and experiences that are unique and not easily replicated
  3. Evolve with your customer

The authors walk you through this process using a mix of anecdotal experiences and their research as academics.

One of my favorite features is the “Things to Think About” section at the end of each chapter. This is where you’ll get a handful of questions to ponder.  Not every question will be applicable to your business, but you’ll find at least one that might open up some opportunities for your business. 

Are We Still Talking About This?

Your success, your profitability, and longevity begins and ends with the customers you choose to serve.  And this isn’t just about marketing.  Every communication and every conversation starts with the same question; “Who is your audience?” or “Who am I talking to” or “Who am I writing to?” 

One of my favorite quotes comes from Dan Kennedy who is one of the greatest direct marketing minds of all time. “Some people sell things so they can have customers, we have customers so we can sell them things.”

This should be common sense.  This shouldn’t be new. And yet, here we are in 2021 and the next new book to hit your Amazon “must read” list is titled “Choose Your Customer”

All I can say is…I’m stunned. 

The most disappointing thing about this book is that it had to be written at all. Obviously, the authors saw enough companies both large and small losing customers and profits to digital giants that they had to share their system for helping them move back to profitability..

I would have liked to see more covered on research and gathering the voice of the customer. 

Please don’t get the impression that I’m anti-data! One thing I loved about Choose Your Customer is how they used data to identify new profitable customers.  There are so many stories and examples, that I’m sure you’ll find some that you can use.

Google and Amazon Are NOT the Bad Guys

I always tell people that I live in a storybook town.  You know, like the ones you’d imagine Norman Rockwell’s characters living in. There’s a square and a gazebo where people gather on the weekends to listen to music or a play.  The square is surrounded by small businesses and about two miles to the west of the square are several giant industrial parks. 

About 30 years ago, they built a ginormous strip-mall-type shopping area north of the square. You should have heard the local businesses! “Those guys are stealing our customers!” Then Amazon and Google became more popular and you heard “They come to my store to learn about these products and then buy them online!”

How do you think these businesses are doing today?

They are FINE.  They are THRIVING. They don’t collect fancy data. They barely have a functioning website. But do you know what they know?

They know who their customers are. When you show up, they call you by name. Some already know your order and others even know your mom. 

You see, Google, Amazon and the big box stores are NOT the enemy.  Initially, our Main Street businesses thought they were losing customers — and some of them definitely were. But before you know it, these businesses had weekend and evening hours, they started finding products that the box stores didn’t have and they got something the box stores had a hard time finding — enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and engaged employees. 

If it weren’t for the giants, the local businesses wouldn’t have found their soul.  So, you see, The giants are really low-cost distributors.  They are the vending machine for commodities. 

But you, my dear reader.  You are not a commodity. You have customers — so go sell them things!

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Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."