In order to reach your customers, you need to understand your customers. It's a basic tenant of business and marketing, but it takes more than conducting basic market research. You need to be asking the right questions. In this post we’ll be taking a look at the five core questions business owners should be able to answer about their customers.
1. What problems (or desires) does the customer have that your brand can solve?
At the most basic level, customers have a problem that need to be solved, so they shop for the product or service that's going to solve the problem for them. Obviously, a single brand can't meet every possible need unless they're a mega-retailer like Amazon.com, so you need to focus on ensuring your products and services not only have a market, but fully meet the needs that market has as best as possible.
For example, consider home improvement companies. If you're a retailer, you're providing more than just tools and siding. Tap into the weather to market hoses and lawn care for summer or shovels and rock salt in preparation for oncoming storms in winter. Service companies can offer cosmetic repair in warm sunny weather in spring, or offer serious repairs for roofing in preparation for heavy storms like hurricanes or blizzards. You can't offer the right thing at the right time unless you know what your customers needs really are.
2. What solution(s) are you offering them?
While this obviously needs to encompass the specific products and services you offer, in this section we're actually referring to the value that you're offering your customer. This is going to be part of what inspires customers to choose you through your unique selling proposition. Also, it helps you to figure out what sets of options you should present to your customer to avoid choice paralyzation.
For example, for an automotive dealership, there's a myriad of customization options that customers can choose from. Rather than overweighting their decision process, ask them the right questions to find out their needs and streamline their options into value packages. As a bonus for you, multi-tiered packages with different values at different price points will help the high end package stand out as what it is, but also make the affordable options stand out as being affordable in the context of the high-end package.
3. What does your customer's buying cycle look like?
To be sure, the buyer's journey has definitively changed, but that doesn't mean that the basic stages don't still stand. Understanding this journey helps you know when to intersect the buying cycle with the right kind of offers and information. After all, the customer that's only just beginning to browse for a particular service needs more information and potentially even different information than a converted customer that's ready to make a purchase. Remember that now that the journey is largely mobile, certainly mostly digital, you have a lot more opportunities to intersect with customers and ensure they discover your business, whether they're looking at a number of other options or if you're the only game in town.
For example, if a financial services firm knows that their local customers are going to start their journey with online searches like "tax services in Hampton Roads," they'll know they can take advantage of digital advertising and content marketing to capture and nurture those leads.
4. How does your customer perceive your brand?
Brand perception is what defines your brand, no matter what your efforts have been or what your brand message is. It's incredibly important to ensure that customers clearly understand what your brand is, what it stands for, and what it can offer them. The alternative is either losing out on business because they think you can't meet their needs, or worse, hurting your brand's reputation because they misunderstood what your brand offered and are disappointed by the service they received. Brand perception includes your industry reputation, the reviews customers will find online, your service quality and your customer assistance value. Are you known as the cheapest place in town, or the best value in town? Are people willing to pay more because you excel in customer service?
For example, as a healthcare provider, customers may value you because you meet the right price point. On the other hand, they may value you because you offer a service that other brands aren't, even if it's something as simple as making it easy to set up appointments through a customer portal online. Knowing how your brand is perceived allows you to strengthen your marketing and pitch the right offers and information to close the sale.
5. How are you intersecting the customer's path to purchase?
Remember, the customer journey has changed, and that means that now more than ever you need to be where your customers are looking for you. This is especially vital in light of micro-moments, which are touchpoints that let you reach out to customers in their time of need on the fly. That means you need a multi-channel marketing strategy that's synchronized and integrated to consolidate your brand image and message. It's also important to integrate your channels in such a way that your customers experience a seamless expression of your brand.
For example, you need to know if your customers are tapping into TV, social media, and your blog. What time of day do you need to advertise if they watch TV? Which social media platforms do they use the most and how do they expect to experience your brand there? Are they using your blog to discover important information about your industry or the latest news about the products and services they care about most? Beyond that, you'll know that you can integrate the hashtag from a social media campaign into your commercial to help drive them to your social media, which in turn includes links back to your blog posts. This generates intangible value with your customers that help them want to turn to you when they reach the point they're interested in making a purchase decision.
Now that you know the five questions business owners should be able to answer about their customers, it's time to take a look at your strategy and determine your answers. They make a great starting point to revamp and optimize your marketing strategy if weak points are revealed.