Know Thy Customer

May 29, 2012 by Beth Handrigan

GRA | MATR - Know Thy Customer Visual

Connecting with Consumers in a DVR World

Have you ever received a phone call from a dear friend, but were in the middle of working on a deadline, so had to cut the conversation short? Or perhaps your child was telling you a story at dinner, but then your dealership called to conduct a survey about your recent service? Or maybe a colleague recently stopped you in the parking lot to discuss preparations for an important meeting, but you were running late for a flight, so you had to delay the conversation.

All of these are examples of situations where something was of potential interest to you, but because one event took precedence over the other, you were not ready to engage.

Nothing could be more frustrating.

Of course, similar situations can easily happen with your potential customers. So, how do you avoid trying to interact with them during that “looming deadline” or “rush to the airport”? In other words, how do you ensure that you are interacting with your customers on their terms, and when they are at their most receptive cognitive state to engage with your brand?

That’s no small task – especially online – as it’s estimated that each day nearly two billion people are searching the web for what they need – and shifting in and out of multiple personas throughout the day.

So, how do you effectively adjust to these moments of cognitive intent and connect with those that are ready to engage with your brand? In our experience, the solution starts with knowing who your customers are. But the typical demographic stuff like age, gender, occupation, title and geo-location just isn’t enough. It’s essential to also answer deeper questions about your buyer archetypes like:

  • What is their personality? Their attitude? Their life experiences? Their goals?
  • What, or who, influences their behavior?
  • What are they worried about?
  • What is their current mindset?
  • What are the risks involved in engaging with them?
  • What must they experience in order to decide to invest their cognitive capital in your brand?

If you can answer questions like these, and truly understand the cognitive pathway your customers take from awareness to conversion to loyalty, you will be better equipped to engage with them how and when it is most meaningful to them.

Consider these examples:

According to a recent Walmart press release, there are millions of customers who prefer to conduct cash transactions or are just plain wary of using any kind of credit or debit card online. In fact, Walmart states that “according to the FDIC, one in four U.S. households fall into the unbanked and underbanked categories where they don’t have a bank account or credit card or have limited banking options, and often rely on cash as a form of payment for purchases. However, many of them are online, with 81 percent of the unbanked and 63 percent of the underbanked having Internet access.” Because Walmart understood the needs and motivations of these target customers, they recently made the decision to offer a “Pay With Cash” option that will allow these customers to shop the way they want, having access to a wider variety of items online, while also having the flexibility to pay for them with cash in store.

This, of course, is in stark contrast to decisions like the Netflix Qwikster fiasco. Being forced to use two disparate websites for DVD-by-mail service and streaming services would clearly be frustrating for customers who’s main motivations center around convenience and ease of use. How could Netflix make such an error in judgment? By failing to focus on their customers’ buying needs and wants and instead basing their business decisions around the product itself. Expecting that DVDs would gradually fade away, Netflix (as company spokesperson Steve Swasey put it) “ wanted to give DVD’s their own lifeline, their own marketing so that the business could be as robust as it could for as long as it could.” Instead, they alienated tens of thousands of existing customers as well as potential future customers – creating a case study in Public Relations; going from innovative superstars loved by customers to an embattled company carrying the perception of being detached from is customer base.

Clearly, constantly identifying, prioritizing and working to truly understanding your key customer personas is essential for engaging with them how and when it is most meaningful to them  – and vital to the success of any marketing campaign.

Do these examples bring to mind any others? What companies have you run across that do an exceptional (or perhaps terribly ineffective) job at understanding and engaging with their customers?

Beth Handrigan
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Director of Consumer & Channel Insights

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