“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

Peter Drucker

Picture yourself at the center of a bustling marketplace. The air is heavy with the aroma of spices, the chime of coins, and the hum of vibrant chatter. Shopkeepers are shouting, trying to sell their goods, luring potential customers into their shops. Everyone is offering something—be it sweet ripe mangoes, handcrafted trinkets, or even a bit of shiny jewelry. But among all these bustling vendors, who do you think will thrive? Who will pack up at sunset with a heavier purse and a satisfied smile?

Simply put, the ones who’ve mastered the art of creating and keeping customers will outshine the rest. They understand that the marketplace is not merely an arena of exchange; it’s a dance of relationships. It’s about more than just trading products for coins; it’s about creating value that will bring customers back, time and again.

Consider it this way: Businesses, like a good book, need an enticing opening chapter. The purpose of the business, similar to the beginning of a compelling story, is to draw the reader—or in this case, the customer—in. Without a captivating start, without creating a customer, there is no story to tell, no journey to embark upon. Yet, it is not just about that initial spark, that first transaction, but the entire plot that unfolds afterwards.

Imagine your favorite novel. What made it your favorite? Was it just the first chapter, or was it the roller-coaster ride that followed? Just like a well-loved novel, successful businesses manage to keep their customers engrossed, turning the pages, eager to see what comes next. This is where the real magic happens. The journey doesn’t end when a customer makes the first purchase; in fact, it has just begun.

Think of the marketplace vendors once again. The ones who are not only good at enticing passersby with their colorful displays and compelling sales pitches but also excel at making those customers return. They remember a customer’s preference, add a personal touch, or provide an extra bit of service that exceeds expectations. They are not just selling products; they are building relationships.

In the same vein, businesses need to recognize that every customer is a story waiting to be told, a relationship waiting to be nurtured. The true purpose of business is not just to create a customer; it is to keep them, to hold their interest, to make them part of the narrative, and to make them come back for more. This continuous dance of creating and keeping a customer is what sustains businesses, what makes them grow, what separates the successful from the struggling.

So, as we peel back the layers of complexities in running a business, we find at its core a simple, timeless truth: The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer. To draw them into your shop, to keep them turning the pages, and to make them feel like part of the story—again and again. And it is this dance, this continuous loop of creation and retention, that forms the heartbeat of a thriving business.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.