Act from the Perspective of Your Customers

Today, a client and I received a group text message from a marketing services vendor:

“Need to get your credit card today if possible. Got your bill together.”

I understand this vendor’s perspective. It’s nearing the end of the year, and they want to maximize revenue. From the message’s urgency, it’s likely they have outstanding accounts payable coming due.

But here’s our perspective. Asking for a credit card by text message without even sending the invoice for us to review appears desperate and unprofessional. We don’t have the same sense of urgency regarding this payment.

Recently, I was discussing the end-of-year sales pipeline with another client. We started our conversation with the question, “What will our customers need between now and the end of the year?” By focusing on the needs of the customer, we’ll ultimately enjoy stronger results through customer loyalty and referrals.

To build great customer relationships, all communication needs to prioritize the customer’s perspective.

For Better Marketing, Get to Know Your Customers

Marketing can be simply defined as the ways you influence customers to buy from you. And to influence effectively, you should understand your customers. Knowing your customers will help you communicate with them in meaningful ways and choose media channels they will actually see.

For better marketing, get to know your customers

Here are checklists of the kinds of demographic and characteristic knowledge you should have about your customers.

Customer Demographic Checklist

Understanding facts and figures about your customers is the first step to designing marketing campaigns that will appeal to them. You should know:

  • Size of your target market
  • Your current share of this market
  • Geography – where your customers live and work
  • Percentage of your customers who are men vs. women
  • Percentage of your customers at various ages/stages of their lives
  • Which media channels they find most compelling, i.e., radio, Facebook, Yelp, magazines, etc.

Customer Characteristic Checklist

Demographics are only the start, though. They can help you choose where to place your messages, and give some guidance on where to start with message development. For instance, a Boomer woman near retirement will generally require a different marketing approach from a Millennial man who just started a business.

To truly influence and persuade customers, you need a knowledge of their personalities, preferences and characteristics. Things like:

  • How do products/services like yours affect their lives?
  • What do they love about your industry?
  • What do they hate?
  • When do they make purchasing decisions?
  • How much research do customers complete before they buy?
  • What makes you special to your customers and differentiates you from competition
  • Who is your indirect competition? What different products/services might a customer buy instead of yours?

If you know less than half of the items on my checklists, your marketing strategy needs more research! Start talking to customers, and let them tell you how to persuade them.

As Christmas Approaches, Customers Don’t Want to See Eyeballs

The best medical professionals are passionate about the science and practice of their areas of specialty. Patients want to know you have expertise and  want to feel reassured they will receive the best care.

But patients are almost never as passionate about your field as you are. And they might even be freaked out about it. For instance, I’m sure my optometrist finds this wreath of eyeballs a charming nod to the Christmas season. But I’m surely not the only patient who thinks it more appropriate to Halloween! Yikes!

Customers Don't Want to See Eyeballs

From billboards showing anatomical sketches of dental implants to LASIK practices wrapped in a giant photograph of an eyeball, medical professionals often take love of their practice too far. Remember that patients are often nervous about procedures and seek comfort more than medical facts.

Customers Don't Want to See Eyeballs

Small Business Marketing Can Be Confusing

Check out this graphic of the Marketing Technology Universe from chiefmartec.com:

Small Business Marketing Can Be Confusing

With all these categories and marketing companies vying for attention, I can see why marketing is confusing for many small businesses. But it doesn’t have to be.

Forget about the marketing universe and focus on what matters to your customers. When you learn what your customers value and where they like to spend their time, you will have the answer to which marketing messages to craft and what media to use. Then, it’s pretty straightforward to choose a marketing partner.

The Great Shrinking Business Model

As a business model, Redbox is on its way to completely replacing Blockbuster. And the company has accomplished this goal in a remarkably short time period. Examining the two business models reinforces the importance of creativity, flexibility and appealing to changing market demands in our own businesses.

Redbox wins this competitive fightLaunched in 2002, Redbox is the company placing movie and game rental kiosks in prominent places around the country (i.e., those ubiquitous red boxes). Blockbuster, of course, is the retail chain with a similar function founded in the 1980s and enjoying success through the early 2000s.

From Redbox’s about page, one learns there are 34,600 Redbox locations in the US, and 68% of the population lives within a 5-minute drive of one. Blockbuster, meanwhile, boasts of just 2,500 stores across the entire globe– down from 6,500 stores in 2010. Clearly, Redbox is on the ascendency.

I call this competition the great shrinking business model. For local movie and game rental, Redbox learned that a kiosk could take the place of an entire retail store. It was quite a revolutionary business decision to implement a strategy that relied entirely upon glorified vending machines.

But the model certainly makes business sense. In a convenience-driven market where almost all consumers own and use credit cards, renting a movie for about $1/day on the way home from the grocery store is easy to understand and simple to do. Selling through a kiosk also allows consumers to rent media 24-hours-a-day.

By taking advantage of evolving consumer behavior, Redbox benefits from a streamlined overhead– with fewer employees, drastically reduced leases and lower insurance rates than required to run a full-size retail store. These optimizations allow Redbox to offer the exact same product as Blockbuster more conveniently and for a cheaper price.

Blockbuster is the market loserSome might argue that the experience of interacting with a movie buff employee at a retail movie rental store makes the visit worthwhile. Perhaps, but it seems that the corporate nature of Blockbuster killed that experience along with the neighborhood video rental store  years ago. My last experience at a Blockbuster included an uninterested employee mumbling “hi” to me without even lifting his head out of box of movies he was sorting. Frankly, I feel the kiosk is more friendly.

By analyzing the business models, it comes as no surprise that Redbox is quickly eliminating the market need for Blockbuster. This rapidly shrinking business model should make you think about your industry– are you the clever innovator or the stodgy competitor about to be taken by surprise?

“Top Selling” and Other Pointless Marketing Claims

Customers don't care if you're opening under new managementDescribing a product or service can often turn into a navel-gazing activity for marketing writers. When a business doesn’t understand their customers and what they care about, they usually engage in marketing that appeals to their own management.

The problem is that your customers don’t care about your inside baseball. Your internal realities have little meaning for your customers. Just because a product is a popular seller doesn’t mean it’s going to fit a customer’s specific needs. And what could be less meaningful to a retail customer than who manages a business? She just wants a good experience.

If you find yourself using the following phrases in your marketing descriptions, you probably need to get to know your customers better:

  • Top-selling
  • New-and-improved
  • Under new management
  • Inventory reduction
Learn what truly motivates your customers, and you won’t struggle with writing great marketing copy.

 

What are your customers thinking?

Do you know what your customers are thinking? Do you know what really matters to them? You should find out! It will make your marketing more effective and efficient.

Sometimes what your customers think and value might surprise you. I had a conversation with a contractor who learned by accident that his customers preferred slightly rusty service vans to pristine, freshly-painted ones. He had purchased a fleet of used vehicles, but unexpectedly needed to put them in the field before he could get them painted. Many of his customers (most of whom were selling their homes, so didn’t want to invest too much capital in the improvements) mentioned they preferred a less expensive contractor who didn’t spend thousands on the appearance of his vans. They believed “the savings were passed on to them,” so to speak. Now, the contractor doesn’t worry so much about keeping the paint jobs up-to-date.

A large part of marketing is learning what matters to your customer through research. How will you know what to say to them in marketing communications unless you know what they believe?

Getting started with research can be as simple as asking a few customers for their opinions, but to get the most value out of research, it’s best to engage a marketing firm. Customers are more likely to give their honest opinions to a third-party, and a marketing firm will have methodologies for getting customers to speak freely.

Oh, did I mention Zoo in a Jungle Marketing excels at qualitative market research? We do!

Marketing Podcast: Facebook Marketing Tips

“Getting Down to Business” had a great guest host for my segment this month, Christopher Pobieglo, President of Business Insurance Associates, Inc. Chris and I talked about Facebook marketing– tips for how to get customers through Facebook and how to keep current customers interested in your business.

Listen to the podcast for examples of how Facebook marketing has worked for different companies– including the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Listen or download below:

Facebook Marketing Tips

Download the Facebook marketing tips MP3 file here. (7.4 MB)

This segment first aired during “Getting Down to Business” on Alaska’s Fox News Talk 1020.

Marketing Throughout the Lifecycle

Do you have different marketing strategies for interacting with customers at each phase of the customer lifecycle? Most businesses don’t, but they should. The cost of acquiring a new customer can be quite high– think of traditional metrics like CPM, CPC or less traditional ones like the time spent making unfruitful sales calls and writing proposals. However, the cost of keeping a customer is usually much less. (Additionally, the cost for getting referrals from your customers is often nothing.)

There are many different customer lifecycle models, but I like Steve Yastrow’s. In fact, he wrote a great article about the topic, “Most Companies Stop Marketing.” Here’s his model:

As illustrated, most businesses focus their marketing on helping customers learn about them, then slack off when it comes to purchasing and the ongoing customer relationship. Think of it like the cable TV, wireless phone provider or car insurance model: reel customers in with a great deal, then see how much hassle you can get them to put up with before a competitor entices them with a better deal. Most businesses aren’t quite as blatant as this, but the result is the same– customers get upset or bored with them and move to a competitor.

Your business will have an incredible competitive advantage if you develop and implement marketing strategies for keeping your customers. When competitors lose their customers, those customers will come to you. And these customers will stay with you, breaking the cycle of fickleness.

Know Your Customer

An effective marketing team knows their customers. They know where to spend their marketing dollars to get the most effect and what messages will resonate with different groups. This customized marketing approach yields a valuable return-on-investment.

However, a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing guarantees marketers will spend more money for less effective results. When they don’t know their customers and their preferences, they must send a variety of messages using many different media.

Yet, many businesses don’t put much effort into learning about their customers.

Below are three examples of differences in customer behavior. You can see how different marketing strategies could be taken to meet their preferences and needs.

  • If your customers are primarily women, you need to know they behave differently from men. Marketing to women expert Marti Barletta writes about consumer behavior frequently, but in one particular post, “Guaranteeing Sales Success with Women,” she emphasizes that women are risk-averse and value warranties and guarantees more than men do.
  • If your customers are young, from 18-33, 80-89% of them can be found on social networking sites. But of those 74 or older who use the Internet, only 10-19% engage in social networking sites. This information is from Pew Internet.
  • If your customers are older and affluent, they might be choosing an urban lifestyle rather than a retirement community. Boston Consulting Group’s Michael Silverstein reports on his firm’s research that these consumers enjoy cooking at home and increasingly have more time to learn new hobbies.

How well do you know your customers? How many of them are women? What age groups buy from you the most? What are their incomes? Being able to answer these questions will help you customize your marketing plan with strategies that will reach your customers without wasting time and money on people who won’t buy from you.