7 Books to Spark Customer-Driven Thinking

Pablo Fernandez
Feb 25, 2016 · 5 min read

This article was inspired by the books we shared in our #learning Slack channel at Drift. These books are recommended reading for all new Drift team members in order to understand our customer-driven approach.

Being customer-driven means that we care about customers so much and so intensely that we don’t just want Driftlings reading these books; we want our customers, our providers, even our competitors, we want everybody reading them.

We truly believe that if we all embrace a customer-driven culture, all the way down to the core, we’ll all be better off.

“Customer-Driven”. “Customer-Focused”. These are just empty concepts. They only come alive when you embrace them from your core; not just from your company’s core, not from your team’s. From YOU.

You don’t need a customer advocate in your organization, you and all your coworkers need to be your customers’ advocates. It needs to be embedded in the lifeblood of all of you. You can’t simply add it as a coat of paint after you’ve built and launched your product.

Our customer-driven mindset intersects with our love for books beautifully in the following selection, we hope you enjoy them and are inspired by them as much as we are.


If you are going to skim this list and just take one book recommendation from it, let it be this one.

David means it. It’d seem like Bernadette Jiwa wrote this book thinking of Drift all along the way. The cultural overlap is that big.

I bought a physical copy of Meaningful to keep on my desk since I tweeted this. Still applies though!

Why it matters

Meaningful shows us how insane we’ve been; building products before we really understood our customers’ worldview, their circumstances and their potential. We’ve been putting the cart before the horse for so long that we have a hard time when we see it in the right way.

In a nutshell, this book paves the way to swap the model from a push model, where a product is created in a silo and pushed to customers, to a pull model, where customers’ worldviews and stories are used to create a product that aligns with who they are and who they want to be.

Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service

If you care about creating a great customer experience (hint: you should) read this book.

If you aren’t familiar with Zingerman’s they are a family of businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Zingerman’s originally started as deli that became so known for their customer service that they now teach the art of serving customers to companies all over the world.

I love this book because it answers the question I get most: How do operationalize and scale the customer-driven way?

Sam Walton: Made In America

The story of how Sam Walton created Wal-Mart and became the richest man in the world. I have stolen many concepts from this book including the concept of Servant Leadership. Read 3x.

Sam teaches us in this book the power of humility in pursuit of serving the customer. This is the critical lynchpin in the Customer-Driven Way; you must have the humility to put your ego to the side in order to learn from and serve the customer.

Sam was putting his ego to the side well after becoming the richest man in the world. Could you imagine doing that?

Everybody Writes

This joyful book by Ann Handley will help you develop “Pathological Empathy”. And get better at writing copy in the process.

As you read your way through these books you’ll notice a pattern builds up. Empathy.

Why is empathy so important?

We’re talking about being customer-driven here. Focusing on the customer requires a level of empathy, of love, of really caring that comes from deep inside.

You can’t fake this stuff. You can’t be cynical, say you care and stick a label on your laptop that says “I care”. You need to internally embrace that label. Because when things get tough (and they will), the only real motivator that’s going to get you where you need to go is love.

Go ahead. Pour in all the Utility you can bring to the table. All the Inspiration from your genius mind. Yet leave Empathy at zero. See how far that gets you.


This is another gem from Bernadette Jiwa. She hits a nerve again with this book that underscores the importance of focusing on building something that isn’t just different. Build something that creates a difference. (tweet this)

Read this book and let that message sink in. You’ll notice how what might initially look like simple word play is actually a big… hmmm… difference.

The One Thing

Caring is doing. The ONE Thing is not strictly about building customer-driven products and services, but it is about focusing 100% on the one thing (hint’s in the title) that will have the largest impact, making your next move either easier or unnecessary.

We are including it in this list (so important David even gave out a copy of this book to every Driftling earlier this year) because being customer-driven implies you are going somewhere, along with your customers. This book will help you both get there.

To Sell Is Human

This is a tough sell for this list; selling is associated in our collective mind with used-car salesmen, lying their way into getting you in a car that will break down as soon as its off the lot.

Yet ditching that preconceived notion we’ll notice that good salespeople are listeners first and problem/solution-matchers second.

Daniel Pink’s premise is that we’re all in sales now. And the best way to be a good salesman is to flex and train your empathy muscles.

Hope you got some value out of this, surely reading any one of these books can have a huge impact in your life!

If you want others to see this hit the ❤️ button. We really appreciate it!

Have customer-driven books to share with us? We’d love to hear. Tweet at us @pablof7z and @dcancel.

Customer Driven

Lessons from the trenches of building a customer-driven company.

Pablo Fernandez

Written by

Climber. Wrote a Linux email client when I was 14. Bootstrapped two profitable startups. I create because I care.

Customer Driven

Lessons from the trenches of building a customer-driven company.

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