Know Thy Customer – Always

Give the customer what they want. Not what you think they want.

Simple, but not always easy to figure out.

I was working with a whiskey sommelier to help them increase their conversion rate. They do custom corporate virtual whiskey tastings. And they wanted more of the people who landed on their website to turn into customers.

The way they had it set up, once you land on their website you can fill out a “Request More Information” form (blerg), and then they’ll reply to you and start the conversation about what kind of whiskey tasting you want to have.

  • How many people?
  • When are you having it?
  • Do you already know which whiskeys you want to taste or do you need help picking?
  • And so on and so on.

In this whiskey somm’s mind, their ability to offer a fully custom whiskey tasting experience was their superpower.

Because if you’re selling a high-end experience custom is better, right? Don’t the kind of business people who have the money to spend on these kinds of things like custom? Isn’t that more prestigious and desirable?

In theory, yes.

But in practice, in this instance, no.

I convinced the somm to try an experiment. I wanted them to take away the customer’s options. Simplify it.

I proposed they do three things:

  1. Put together three pre-set whiskey tasting options.
  2. Figure out what the cost per person would be for each of the three options.
  3. Tell their prospective customers right up front, “These are the thee tasting options we offer and here’s how much each one costs.” 

Upon implementation, their conversion rate immediately quadrupled.


A little digging uncovered a few things at play.

First, ordering a fully custom whiskey tasting required the prospective client to already know what they wanted. Most people in this regard don’t and so it seemed too daunting.

Second, the myriad of decision points required for a from scratch fully custom tasting was often more work than the client was willing to bother with.

Third, the C-level executives were paying for the tastings, but the real customers turned out to be their assistants who were tasked with finding the entertainment. The assistants cared less about high-end exclusivity and more about, “Is everyone going to enjoy themselves and will I look good for booking this?”

The lesson?

Know thy customer and what’s important to them. And don’t be afraid to experiment until you get it right.

Learning what your customer actually wants takes persistent work. But I think we can both agree that a 4X’d conversion rate is worth it.

– Zac Smith, VC