What do your customers need? And how can Haruki Murakami help you find out
Published 25/08/2021
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Have you ever tried to define what your perfect customers want? To create a profile of the people you’d love to do business with? Have you ever tried to think what you could do to attract those customers? To ‘woo’ them to want to do business with you? What words would you use? What sort of language would you adopt? How could you engage those people? Sweep them off their feet to be the best choice they could make? The right fit? Their ideal choice? Would you find them online? Offline? Locally? Nationally? Internationally?
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I’ve just reread one of my favourite books – Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun – and I added a swirl of pencil marks to one particular paragraph, not because the writing is exquisite (my battered copy of the book is full of pencilled stars and love hearts and underlinings where the language he uses has taken my breath away). But because it made so much damn sense from a business perspective.


The paragraph I marked describes the main character, Hajime, telling Shimamoto, the woman he has loved since they were school friends aged 12, about his business.

Hajime owns a couple of successful jazz bars (Murakami ran a jazz bar in Tokyo before he started to write). It goes like this:

“Maybe you have more talent for running a business than would appear,” Shimamoto said.

“I’m afraid I don’t,” I said. “I don’t really consider myself a businessman. I just happen to own two small bars. And I don’t plan to open any more, or to earn much more than I do at the moment. You can’t call what I do talent.

But you know, sometimes I imagine things, pretend I’m a customer. If I were a customer, what kind of bar I’d go to, what kind of things I’d like to eat and drink. If I were a bachelor in my twenties, what kind of a place would I take a girl to? How much could I spend? Where would I live and how late could I stay out? All sorts of scenarios. The more scenarios I come up with, the more focused my image of the bar becomes.”

Brilliant, isn’t it?


Think about it. What sort of imaginary scenarios can you come up with for your business? Can you work out what your customers need – and how you can fulfil that need to the best of your ability? Throw some ideas into the mix like Hajime – cost, availability, location…

Could you, for example, make sure your website has a clear call to action so your prospects know how to get in touch with you – and feel that they're missing out if they don't?

Might you send out a sales letter to 10 of the businesses in your region that you want to approach, making it clear how you could help them and how easy it would be to do business with you?

Perhaps you could write a landing page to promote your services and offer a discount – something like a clear financial incentive to new customers? Or the way you're business gives them back their evenings and weekends?


Hajime doesn’t need to earn more than he does at that moment. He’s happy with his “four-bedroomed apartment condo in Aoyama, a small cottage in the mountains of Hakone, a BMW, a Jeep Cherokee…”

But most people I meet would like to grow their businesses, to put themselves out there a bit more – and increase their revenue.

And you?

What are you going to do?

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