Today, my goal is to pass along the one greatest mistake any marketer (business owner have to be marketers also!) makes in the development of a business or marketing plan.  It applies to all industries, all businesses, and all product/service lines.  Ready?  Because I won’t sugar coat the truth…here is the 64 thousand dollar question:  Do you know your customer?  If you are shaking your head confidently, then I you have all the customers you need and you can stop reading now!  <keep reading—that comment is a test to see if you read my last blog!—world domination remember??> 

You see, I work with many great companies in a week.  Some have great inspiration and a fabulous team.  Some have a great product, but a weaker team.  Some have great competition, but a driven group of individuals wanting a piece of the pie.  The one thing they all lack is an unerring knowledge of their customer.  When I ask them the questions that are vital to successfully selling their product, I get a mixture of “I guess,” “I think,” and “I assume.” 

BTW…it is my belief that the word “assume” should be banned from the English language!

Anyway…soapbox aside, these phrases are a plan for disaster.  You have to know what your customer likes and dislikes, know where he shops, what he eats and drinks, what kind of car does he drive (hint: financial as well as culture implications)…dont stand back and guess….go out and find Elvis!

Here is another of my famous “Marketing Goddess” checklists for knowing your customer:

  • Personality Profile:  This includes knowing the basic information about your customer like what they like to do with their spare time, what does their house look like, who are their friends, do they have children, large family vs. small family, large town mentality vs. small town mentality….and on and on.  All of these things are triggers for buying habits.  Think on this…someone who grew up in a large family is more likely to be thriftier, so you will need to go the extra mile when explaining benefits (NOT FEATURES—ask if you don’t know the difference!).  You will really have to work on integrating your product into their “need structure” as opposed to their “want structure” because they tend to spend money on what they need first.
  • Know Your Customer on Sight:  Do you have a mental picture of your customer base?  This will be more than one person, so I tend to think of it as a group family reunion picture.  Look across gender, age, race, ethnicity, hobbies….these will be the physical features of the person you are seeking.  I recently did some work for a tattoo company.  While at dinner, one of the ladies started to tell me how she had always wanted a tattoo, but she was scared to get one because she might not like it.  This is the customer!  Know that person when they appear in front of you. Why??…keep reading.
  • Engage and Listen (do these simultaneously):  It is important to ask the questions you want to find answers to…BUT…engage and listen.  People love to talk about themselves.  If you are interested enough to listen to them talk, they will talk your ears off every time.  Crazy part of that…they will think you are the best conversationalist in the world!  So, it goes something like this…”what do you do in a day?”….They answer.  Never never ask yes or no questions.  Always ask questions that lead to another question or a detailed answer.  You can feel free to jump in with questions as they talk like “how many kids/dogs do you have?” if that is what they are discussing at the time as you go (this is called engaging).  Engaging is as simple as asking the right questions on the topic they are discussing so it shows them you are listening!  They feel like you are really interested…and you really are!  In the instance above, with the lady who wanted the tattoo, I found out what was holding her up, if she was bothered by the idea of the pain, that she had been looking through shops (tells me what stage in the buying process she is at), how her husband felt about it, and if she had found something she liked!  That was a short conversation of less than 10 minutes.  Then, I left her with the website address and talked to her about a few features that addressed what she had told me.  Was it successful?  It was—she called to rave about the site and tell me of her purchase!
  • Understand Their Motivations:  This is possibly the most important factor.  This will tell you what makes someone act or take the action you want.  There are three big motivations: security, money, and prestige (power).  These things are not always connected and NOT always self-directed.  Example—if you are selling a security service, knowing that someone travels a lot and wants to make sure their family is safe while they are away is gold to you!  Or, if you are selling a phone reminder service for the elderly, knowing that someone has elderly parents in another city that they worry about is your cue.
  • Think Like They Do:  Ok, so now you have all of this information.  Use it to think like your customer.  What services or products do they use?  Can you add to that?  Can you create a product or service that they would want to go with it?  Do you have a product or service that you can create a marketing slant for each of the audience you have discovered?  You need to tailor your approach to each of the groups you have found.

Hint Hint Hint:  Know ahead of time what action you want your customer to take.  Do you want them to sign up for a newsletter, post on your blog, or buy something?  Ask yourself…how do I move them that way?

Now, Plan B:  Always be prepared with an alternative plan of action.  For instance, what if someone is not ready to use your service or buy your product?  Do you really want to loose your marketing investment on them because they are not comfortable and ready to buy?  NO WAY…give them other options.  Post on the blog, sign up for my newsletter (Elvis information), fill out a survey for a discount, get a free informational white paper…give them something and keep working on them.  One great example of this is John Roulet of Gold Standard Management (http://www.unleashyourtiger.com).  He gives away a free white paper called “Key Principles of 21st Century Management” when you register for his newsletter.  Find an alternative plan of action and provide incentive!

The test is when you can pass your average customer at dinner or in the grocery store, drop a slight hint on them about your business (please…dont annoy people…this is your test, not theirs!), and they want to know more.  Remember, the key to any good marketing is not getting the sale from the beginning.   Your goal is to develop an ongoing relationship with your customer, “Mr. or Ms. Ideal Customer,” and then keep them in your sales channel.  Marketing theory says it takes 3-5 contacts with a customer before a sale.  So, think of this as a first date.  Learn what you need to know about them.  Look alittle deeper…what are their hobbies, interests, favorite colors, favorite foods…you name it, you know it!  Every piece of intel is important to your success.  Because your real goal is to “Find Elvis” or that collection of traits that will give you insight to your customer.  When you have that golden collection of traits that sell to your customer, then you will be able to approach the market with a new understanding of what you should offer, incentives, and services that make that clickable combination of widespread, repeatable sales.  Don’t wait until “Elvis has left the building” to go searching for your perfect customer (make that CUSTOMERS!)

Next posting?—A theory from my hero, Jack Welch, about taking your product or service into a new market.  Maybe…again…I get to change my mind!
If you have questions, comments, or emotional outburst….well, that is why I am here!
Diana, Marketing Goddess (Magic Touch Marketing @ www.marketingsc.com)

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