Question: What do most business failures have in common?
Think about glorious failures like the Ford Edsel, Sony Betamax, Orbitz soda, Pepsi A.M, and my favorite “Thirsty pet” bottled water for dogs.
Sometimes the product comes long before understanding the customer.
Do you know your customers?
For many enterprises, the pendulum has swung too far toward product refinement. Most entrepreneurs are focussed on making better, greater, faster, cheaper products…
…do their customers need them?
Our laser focus on technology and advancement can blur our understanding of what our customers really want and need.
Few companies understand this dynamic better than Apple. The delicate balance they have achieved between alternately driving and responding to demand is artful.
And it can be done on a small scale.
Does my family need an iPad?
When the first Apple iPad was released in 2010 I couldn’t understand why anyone would want one…especially not my dear wife.
After all, we had an abundance of screens in the house – desktops, laptops, cellphones. What need could an iPad possibly fulfill in our lives?
I was in for an education…
Our new iPad was in the kitchen cooking videos, in the backseat of the car keeping the children entertained, and finding its ways on road trips to stay in touch with family.
Gradually the iPad revealed needs we didn’t know we had in the first place. Apple had successfully created a larger demand than we knew existed.
If you want to know your customer as well as Apple does, follow these 5 steps.
5 tips that will help you know your customer.
It’s not difficult to know your customers once you resolve to shift your focus from product-centric to customer-centric. Here’s how:
1. Ask questions
There is no bad time or place to ask a potential, current or past customer about their experience – why they’re considering your product, what or who made them decide to purchase it, how they feel post-purchase.
Quiz your front-line staff and sales representatives. You want to know their experiences, as well.
2. Look at the data
Tracking tools like Google Analytics collect consumer behavior and help you understand what your customers don’t understand, don’t like, and what they do prefer.
You can also see where clients get stuck on your website and use that information to create a more user-friendly experience.
3. Spend time on the front line
Get out of the office and explore the marketplace as your customers explore them.
Be a ‘silent shopper’ – in-store and online – and check out your competition. If your company is large or geographically dispersed, hire an agency to provide this service for you.
This is not an opportunity to ambush your staff with “gotcha” moments. It’s a time to see your products and customer service as your customers see them.
4. Build personas
My wife is one-of-a-kind, but as a consumer, she shares attributes with her customer cohort.
Savvy business people build personas – customer profiles – of their ideal clientele.
Building your customer profiles can start with this checklist:
- Geography – Where are your customers?
- Socio-Demographics – Who are they?
- Are they mostly male or female?
- How old are they?
- What level of education do they have?
- How much do they earn?
- Psychographics – Understand their “soft” characteristics – their values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyle choices.
- Transactional – How do they like to do business with you? If you’re a retailer, ask yourself:
- Are your clients principally online shoppers or do they want face-to-face service?
- How much do they spend?
- What kind of products do they buy?
Remember consumers tend to decide with their emotions (1) and rationalize with thoughts. Go beyond demographics and consider how your ideal market actually makes the decision to choose your company over the competition?
Build optimal personas for your product, rank them in order of potential. This will give you focus in your marketing efforts, but also in the design or customization of your products and services.
For example, Apple knew my wife wouldn’t want her laptop taking up space or getting splattered on the kitchen counter.
5. Optimize learning through testing
AB testing (2) – in which users get two consumer experiences that are identical except for one variable – allows you to see which performs best for conversation…and conversion.
You will probably want an outside agency to conduct this testing for you since the parameters are specific and the results can be difficult to translate into action. Check your content, tone, calls to action, and design, among other elements, to fine-tune what works and what doesn’t.
Know your customer, or else
Profit comes from new customers, repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them. (3) So it really pays to understand who your customers are so you can fulfill a need, solve a real problem for them.
Follow these five steps and uncover the potential waiting for you.
My new program, The Brand Marketing Booster offers a great way to understand these concepts in context, and also goes through how to go about putting the building blocks together for a great positioning that works for you. I also go into the importance of brand positioning in my various speaking engagements. Learn more here.