Building a Better Customer Trap. Part One: Who Cares?

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Here’s the question you should ask as you prepare any marketing piece that will be seen by a customer or prospect:  Why should they care?

If you can’t easily and quickly answer this, STOP.

Consider:  What are you saying (or planning to say) to make them care?

If you’re not saying anything that will resonate with what they want to accomplish or achieve, or improve upon, or resolve a problem they are facing – or the old need, want, fear or desire motivators — it’s time to re-think your message.

As a product or service marketer, you have an objective: to increase sales leads, to present your company as an innovator or thought leader, to alert them to a special offer to buy, etc.  But, effective marketing today is NOT about your company.  It’s about your customers.

Think you can’t get beyond the standard no-meaning descriptors, like, “we’ve provided high quality products for 30 years?”  Think again.  It’s just not that hard, regardless of how old the product line may be, or how seemingly banal the point of the communication.

Attack the Problem
1. As a very first step, we conduct what we call our ‘Insight Phase’ in which we talk with both customers (satisfied and less so) and prospects to pick their brains about the company, what’s important to them, and why they buy.  This can be done in-depth with as few as 4-6 contacts, all the way up through a formal research format involving dozens of contacts.  While an online survey tool is useful, we believe there is no substitute for a live conversation.

2. With target input in hand (and used to generate more probing questions), we help our clients think beyond the typical marketing-speak by holding an internal messaging brainstorm. Gather up a cross-section of staff.  Include R&D, HR, sales, management, the lot.   Plan a two hour session and generate a dozen or so questions for the group (you can modify some of the same questions you used with customers).   Think of questions beyond the obvious (who we are, what we sell, what make us different/better, although many companies don’t even have good answers to these basics!).

A telling way to start the discussion is to ask the group to give their current company ‘elevator’ speeches.  There are likely to be good tidbits from several that can be culled for later use.

Other questions to take the group beyond the basics:

  • What are some of the issues sales reps face when selling the company’s product or service?   Reps will likely be vocal about this, which then leads to deeper discussion of what the company should be emphasizing in its marketing messages.
  • What are customers buying beyond our product or service – what are they really buying?  This should open up a torrent of commentary (and will make the group think!).  Examples of answers we’ve gotten include “trust,” “we know they’ll bend over backwards for us,” “we’re confident in the end result.”
  • Define the terms used to describe your company, product or service.  Many companies say they are leaders.  So ask, what does being a leader in our industry really mean to our customers?
  • Ask the group for examples of your company’s key successes.  Often these can be turned into meaningful points that can be effectively expressed through various marketing tools.

The answers from both groups – customers and staff – should give you a rich source of new reasons why your target should care about your product or service.

Use them and the ROI of your next marketing piece will improve in multiple ways: You’re being real with your audience; you’re being specific; and, you might just open the door to having some fun with your message.

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Questions, Part 2 – What don’t you know about your client’s customers?

faq_signThe last question from yesterday’s post, “Would you consider your strategic planning process to be customer centric?”, is the perfect transition into today’s list about, you guessed it, customers.

You know how important it is to get them and keep them.  At the beginning of any engagement, we query the prospect about their customers and what drives their buying decisions.  Getting these answers will not only help your marketing direction, it will help your client find — and hopefully keep — satisfied customers.

  • What problems are your customers trying to solve?
  • Who are your most valuable customers?
  • What do your most valuable customers have in common?
  • What would the last 10 former customers answer to the following question, “What were the reason(s) you left us?” (If you don’t know their names, phone or e-mail, that’s a different issue.)
  • What is the next best alternative that your best customers have for your product, service or solution?
  • How do you leverage information gathered from your customers for direct customer benefit?
  • What are you teaching your customers and prospects?
  • What makes your company or product remarkable?
  • What are your primary tactics for acquiring new customers?
  • What percentage of new customers comes directly from direct selling efforts, marketing programs, customer referrals, or unknown?
  • Do you have a Customer Advisory Panel? Do you meet them on a regular basis (i.e. at least once per quarter)?

What questions about customers do you ask?

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