Behind the doors of many a new and experienced company are conversations like this:
- How much should we charge?
- How many widgets should we make?
- What color should we make the website header?
Conspicuously absent is the important question of:
- Who is the customer?
- What do they want?
I venture to guess at many businesses, the questions listed at the top of this letter are asked by ‘marketing’ people’ before the other two.
Example: I was recently invited on a conference call as part of a new project. All the people from this particular company who were part of the project were dialing in. During the entire duration of this call, all the bells and whistles and “go-go-gadget ___” were batted back and forth ad nauseum. To my amazement, not once did a discussion of the customer come up one time. And this was one of the first planning stage meetings.
(don’t get me started on meetings)
It’s a dreadful mistake to not keep Mr. or Mrs. Customer at the forefront of the conversation at all times.
The customer is where making money starts.
Message, benefits, features, product, packaging, delivery, back-end sales…all should be crafted with buyer top of mind. There is no other way.
Today’s consumer is demanding, discerning and ever fleeting with their dollars. If you hope to earn the repeat sales and back-end business that are truly your ‘money makers’ then your entire focus should be on customer acquisition and retention.
And making too many assumptions, or worse, flying blind, is a recipe for certain failure.
I admit to being guilty of this on past occasions and sorry for it every time.
In one business I foolishly assumed small accounting and tax firms would want a service that would, in essence, lead to the elimination of their very jobs.
Not knowing much about my target market at the time, I did not realize my target market was…in fact not my target market at all. I had miscalculated (or…more accurately, lack of calculation).
Seems as though endless data entry and paper shuffling was a cause of an important emotional trigger called:” self-perpetuation.”
And proposing that a 4 person accounting firm outsource client files so that an un-seen person in a foreign land could enter the data was tantamount to treason against my country.
Thus I learned a valuable (read: expensive) lesson: understanding the wants, motivations and emotional needs of your target customer is vital.
Among the other mistakes I made in marketing this outsourcing service for small CPA firms was relying too heavily on logic in the selling process.
- You’ll save $X per year
- You can increase your billable hours by $Y per month
- You’ll reduce staff attrition
But these arguments did not land with the prospective client. Why? Because everybody was promising them these same “benefits,” too (software companies, office equipment, consultants and the like). And, these benefits only spoke to the left brain. Always a no-no to only cover one side of the brain hemispheres in your marketing.
Yes, even though an accountant would be type-cast as a more analytical person, this does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that emotion does not come into the selling process.
The only emotional argument I attempted was “escape the paper chase.” And, again, since the paper chase was a large reason for much of the existence of them – and their staff – this one did not land either. After all, if the IRS simplified the tax code, the need for tax services would diminish.
A bid key missed by me with knowing what motivated and drove my (thought to be) target customer.
My feature and benefit load may have struck more a nerve with a mid-level purchasing manager at a big accounting firm or law firm.
Live and learn.
Make a List
Since I love the old short story Obvious Adams so much, here’s an obvious, often said, yet rarely done piece of advice:
Make an exhaustive list about your customer. Every little detail about them imaginable that you can come up with should be put down. Go beyond the standard demographic “age, gender, income” stuff.
- TV shows watched
- Type of employment
- Past purchases in similar category to yours
- Credit cards held & balances
- Investment portfolio type
- Type of car owned
- Internet vs. mail order vs. phone buyer
The ideal is to get to the point where you can visualize your customer perfectly in your mind – almost as if they were sitting write across from you.
Then ,and only then, can you really get into the ‘money making’ sweet spot.