Marketing That Makes A Difference

Is the customer always right?

In the long run, the answer has to be “Yes,” of course – but it’s only true if you ask your customers the right questions.

We often find that marketers start their planning process by asking “What do we have to sell?” and then “Who can we sell it to?” Advertising and sales plans then offer a buffet of their goods and services and leave it up to the customers to make the right choice.

The problem is, customers might see what they want, but they may not see what they need. This kind of purchase exposes the seller to dissatisfied customers. To build a long term customer base, marketers put themselves in a stronger position when they establish a track record for solving needs, not for selling products. And that track begins with a very different question.

Our consulting work advises clients to develop plans based on how customers buy, instead of how their company sells. The better questions you should ask at the start of the marketing process are “Why do customers buy in this sector” and then “What can we offer to meet that need?”

What’s the difference?

When you ask these questions, you soon find that all customers are not alike. Even if you have just a single product to sell, customers are likely to have different reasons for buying it. Find out either through market research or having that conversation with your client to find out:

  • who is actually making the buying decision?
  • what are the major pain points they are trying to overcome?
  • where do they look for product alternatives and guidance?
  • why do they buy another product instead of yours?

Learning the differences in your customer base puts you in a much better position to start building real relationships. Instead of advertising to “the market,” you can develop communications that speak to real customer needs, “person to person.”

Reverse the process

Putting “customers first” in your planning process will help your business grow in a number of ways. First, by focusing on fewer ears and eyes at once, you can streamline your messages and waste less time filtering out poor prospects from your sales and followup programs. Your “person to person” advertising will resonate more with the right people, it will convert prospects more efficiently, and it will cost less.

When you look more closely at customer needs, you can identify gaps in your product line or feature set and use this to drive future product development. While new products are coming on-stream, you get to focus your efforts on products that have a best prospect of succeeding. Life is so much easier when you sell what people want to buy!

A “customers first” approach opens the door for customers to do more of the talking. Your team can engage in more meaningful conversations about the customer’s needs and opportunities. This is the foundation for “relationship selling,” adding value to your business beyond the value of its products. In this kind of sales relationship, customers will start to call you first for a solution when the catalog doesn’t have the answer.

Planning for “social” change

If you have any aspirations at all of marketing effectively through social media, understanding the personal preferences and idiosyncrasies of different customers is your only hope. Social media is inherently more personal, and it speaks to more than the buyer’s immediate product needs. The appetite for relevant, topical content is endless, but it’s up to you to know what might appeal to a specific group of followers.

Now you’re putting the horse back to the front of the cart. Your customers truly are “always right.” Get them pulling for you when you set out to plan your marketing. And don’t be surprised if they start to pull you in new directions.