In today's changing beef industry, it doesn't really matter whether you sell weaned calves, participate in some sort of value-chain, or retain ownership all the way to the consumer. From the perspective of becoming more customer-driven and focused, there's perhaps no greater indicator of the product and service you provide than to ask yourself if your customer would give you a referral.
I know a feedlot operator isn't going to give you the number of another feedlot that would feed your cattle. But would your seedstock producer recommend you to an order buyer? Would your feedlot customer recommend you to one of his customers as a place to buy replacements? The list goes on.
Do you have a relationship with your customer? Is that customer both satisfied with your product and aware of the extra value you bring to the relationship? Perhaps the first question should be: Are you adding extra value to the relationship? Regardless of the circumstances, would your customers recommend you, and put their reputation on the line in doing so?
If you don't have that type of relationship with your customers, it's time to sit down and create a game plan. The days of selling a commodity product in an undifferentiated marketplace are evaporating. They may never disappear, but the potential to profit from the commodity marketplace is going to get tougher and tougher.