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.

Campfire Stories and Small Business Marketing

Campfire Stories and Small Business MarketingA great campfire story compels the audience to listen, eager to hear what happens next. And they will remember the story, to share with others later. Wouldn’t you love for your marketing to capture some of that feeling? Unfortunately, small business marketing tends to focus on tangible features and benefits, i.e., “Enjoy life in your new kitchen with a state-of-the-art redesign!” A new kitchen is great, but communicating in facts and figures just isn’t that memorable or motivating.

If campfire stories were like most small business marketing campaigns, they would go something like this:

“It was a dark and stormy night, exactly 7:03 P.M. Scattered thunderstorms approached from the west, as lightning created significant property damage. Seeking shelter from these dangerous conditions, two young adults overcame their fears and entered a house that had a reputation for being haunted. After recording some rather disturbing experiences in a journal, they disappeared… never to be heard from again.”

“Just the facts” is a terrible way to interest and motivate customers. Get out your marshmallows and dream up a story that will help customers remember you in a meaningful way.

Be Comparatively Better and Absolutely More Successful

Find the Differences that Matter to Beat the Competition

Be comparatively better and absolutely more successfulCustomers will always compare your small business to your competitors. Their frame of reference for evaluating you is often if you are better or worse than what they’ve experienced in the past. If you learn what irks customers about competitors and excel in those areas, you will have a significant competitive advantage.

Not every difference matters. Customers probably don’t care if you’ve been in business 15 years, while your competitor has only been around for three. They might not even care that your certifications are more thorough. You must find the meaningful differences that can set you apart from the competition in the customer’s mind.

Let’s take my experience with construction contractors as an example. What really matters to me in a contractor is that he answers my call or calls me back the same day. I want a schedule that actually means something. When there’s a problem, I want him to tell me about it right away. That seems like basic customer service, doesn’t it? But compared to most contractors, a firm that meets those criteria will win my loyalty and business.

For some industries, being better than competitors is pretty simple. You just have to be aware of the differences that matter. How will you learn what matters? That’s also pretty simple. Ask your customers. They will tell you.

Facebook as a Customer Service Tool

Have you ever had a customer reach out to you with a customer service issue on social media?

Most businesses think of social media as only a marketing tool (if they think of these channels at all). But including social media in your customer service strategy could lead to happier customers who rave about your business in public.

Facebook as a Customer Service ToolOne great example of a business using Facebook for customer service is my client Grady Veterinary Hospital. The practice receives frequent queries on Facebook, and always responds promptly and thoroughly, in a caring manner. If appropriate, the staff replies publicly. This customer service approach on Facebook is partially responsible for the practice’s 194 reviews, averaging 4.3 stars.

Customer service personnel need to be adept at more than just phone and email communication. Small businesses should empower them to interact on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or other social media where your business has a presence.

By honoring customers’ communication preferences, you show that you listen to them and that they are important to you. Already, a reconciliatory tone has been set. And the customer has an easy platform to shout your praises from the virtual rooftops.

No One Cares about Free Estimates

Have you ever paid for an estimate? Neither have I. And yet the marketing universe is full of badges, buttons and starbursts proclaiming their benefits:

No one cares about free estimates.

Promoting free estimates is like boasting about offering a toll-free number. It’s simply a cost of doing business, and customers won’t be persuaded to buy from you because of either.

Instead of wasting valuable customer attention with offers of free estimates, give them a unique, persuasive reason to contact you. It’s true that the marketing power of “free” is very strong, so consider free consultations or free upgrades as compelling alternatives. By thinking creatively, this one simple change will result in more customers reaching out, interested in your small business.

What Church Potlucks Taught Me about Marketing

What Church Potlucks Taught Me about MarketingThere’s a curious phenomenon at church potlucks, which anyone who has cooked for one has witnessed. Simply cooking a dish you know to be delicious is not enough to entice people to eat it. As my mom taught me, you have to nicely display and properly portion the food. Slice meat into individual servings, and cut cakes into appropriately-sized pieces.

My younger, incredulous self had two questions for my mom:

  • I did the cooking. Can’t the people eating it show the initiative to portion it for their own consumption?
  • How do people survive in life if they don’t even have the ability to try dishing up a new food?

My disbelief notwithstanding, my mom was right. If I didn’t plan for how people would dish up my food, it would go uneaten. But if I served the same casserole cut into small squares, it would disappear.

The church potluck is a mini marketplace and can teach us several things about small business marketing.

  1. As there are so many options in the buffet line, people just choose the easiest, most familiar ones. Similarly, your business has plenty of competition, and customers will gravitate to the choice that is easiest to understand.
  2. No one likes to be embarrassed or feel like he’s not in control of a situation. Cutting up food carries some social risk– what if you drop it? what if you suddenly see something you don’t like? (like the one time I found limp, cooked pickles in a casserole)  You need to make things as easy for your customer as possible. Make her feel smart and in-control.
  3. Word of mouth is powerful. If one early-adopter raves about your pie (or product), others will just have to try it. Before you know it, your dish will be the talk of the church! Or, your product will be on everyone’s wish list.
  4. On the flip side, the unknown is scary. Very few people are willing to be the first to try something new. You have to make it attractive for them to be first.

All of the above factors come into play even at a church potluck where the food is free, and the risks are low. Since your customers pay for your offerings, their reactions in the actual marketplace will be more pronounced. But take my mom’s advice, and you’ll be successful.

 

Traditional Website Navigation Isn’t Boring. It’s Easy to Use.

Imagine a car designer saying, “It’s boring to have the brake on the right and the accelerator on the left. We need to stand out! Let’s put the brake next to this cup-holder.” How well would a car like this sell? Can you imagine re-training generations of drivers to drive differently just for the sake of one car design?

Every day, web designers are having the same conversation about website design (admittedly, with less fatal results). They are so bored of putting the “Contact” button on the right side of the menu bar that they forget having these conventions makes websites easy to use.

Sometimes web marketers mistake user habits for boring design. If users are researching dozens or hundreds of websites looking for products and services like yours, they appreciate a site that’s easy to navigate– and they’re only going to visit your site for about three seconds before they decide to stay or move onto the next one.

A website design must show the user what they’re looking for in those first three seconds before any user will take the time to admire beautiful design elements or creative devices. Part of that experience is having traditional elements in expected places. If a user can’t find your contact information, how will he ever call you?

Why Isn’t Every Business Using Yelp for Customer Service?

My husband and I had a great experience dining at Jimmy G’s, so I wrote them a five-star review on Yelp.

Positive review of Jimmy G's on Yelp

Less than an hour later, I received an email from Ross, the manager, thanking me for reviewing the restaurant. At first I thought, “What courtesy! How kind! How unusual!”

But then I thought… “Why isn’t every consumer business doing this?” Ross’s simple message turned me into a raving fan. I’m even giving them publicity on my blog. And it only took five minutes of his time.

How long would it take you to write a short thank-you message on Yelp to each of your reviewers?

Beyond thanking positive reviewers, what if you could repair customer relationships that resulted in negative reviews? Usually, it wouldn’t take more than an apology and a token of your sincerity.

Wouldn’t that be valuable to your business?

“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.

 

Why the Facebook Timeline Makes Marketing Sense

Lately, I’ve heard many complaints about the new Facebook timeline for businesses. Change can certainly be unwelcome and inconvenient, but the new timeline design has actually improved Facebook marketing opportunities for businesses.

A Simply Measured study released at the end of March shows that brands received, on average, a 46% increase in engagement when updating to the timeline. Photo and video post engagement increased an impressive 65%. Engagement includes commenting on or sharing a post. Engaging with customers is what makes Facebook a powerful marketing tool, so these increases can be very valuable for businesses.

Customization is another great benefit to the Facebook timeline design– now businesses can uniquely portray their brand with a cover image, highlighted stories and important events in the business’s history. Before, all business Facebook pages looked pretty much the same, and it was difficult to communicate your brand rather than Facebook’s brand. Facebook now tries to put the emphasis on the business, not themselves.

Before the timeline, it was easy for a business’s Facebook page to become cluttered with posts, comments or complaints from customers. Now, there is much better organization for this content. Businesses can also send and receive private messages from Facebook users. For most businesses, this will help keep their Facebook marketing communication free from confusion– a customer who asks a question or makes a complaint can now receive a private answer.

To see some examples of how other businesses and brands are marketing with Facebook, I recommend checking out Facebook’s own page – “Introducing New Facebook Pages.” There’s also a brief overview of new features. If you still have questions, or need some help, send me an email – amanda@zooinajungle.com. I’m always glad to talk small business marketing!