David Long, CEO of Orangetheory Fitness, gave the keynote at the Emerging Franchisor Conference in Miami this week and shared one of his mottos that I thought was really smart, “Know your customers; never assume you know everything.” It’s a simple statement, yet so difficult for many franchisors and franchisees to figure out. The core to every business is the consumer, so why do so few companies understand who their customers are?

Over the last decade fitness / wellness franchises have been growing like weeds throughout the US and internationally. As an example, Orangetheory has grown from 12 franchise locations in 2011 to nearly 250 locations in 2015, and they expect to double that number in the next year. Why is that? It’s really simple – they understand who their customers are, which makes it easier to get them to come back and find more people like them.

When I was in High School, I used to go to the same deli at least four days a week with my friends. The owner, Lisa, knew me by name and always knew exactly what I was looking for. Every once in a while she would give me a free drink or throw in a surprise appetizer since I was such a good customer. Lisa’s Deli did not have the best food in town, but that customer service and relationship made me feel guilty every time I ventured somewhere else for a sandwich.

Now, it’s pretty difficult for franchisors to have that kind of relationship with every single one of their customer’s. However, if you understand the type of customers who enjoy your gym, restaurant, store, etc., it gives you the edge over your competition. Not only to keep them coming back, but to also gain more people with the same interests.

Did you know: Eighty-six percent of organizations do not have a complete customer list. This is an astounding number when you think about the importance of it.

Listening to David’s presentation reminded me how valuable knowing and understanding your customers is for franchisors and other businesses. Lisa always made me feel so special, and I’m excited about helping organizations create that same feeling for their customers.

Alex Harris is Connectivity’s Eastern Region Sales Manager