Do You Know Your Customers?

How well you know your customers, their preferences and their buying habits, can be the difference between adding to your bottom line or closing your doors.  This knowledge also needs to include your prospective customers, so who are the people who consume or are most likely to consume your product or service?

The recent Coca-Cola ad during Super Bowl XLVII implied that Coke consumers were badlanders, cowboys, or showgirls, chasing through the desert after the elusive soft drink.  At least that was part of the impression I took away from the spot as an evaluator.  In other words, Coke created the perception that their product is for everyone, and that everyone wants (thirsts for) Coca-Cola.  Consumers voting for the winner at gave the edge to the showgirls and even sabotaged the cowboys and badlanders (I put the kibosh on both groups once).  It was a commercial that played out on the Internet, which was a different but not unusual way to stimulate consumer interaction.  The outcome was understandable if you consider most of those voting were probably men.

In that last statement lies the root of understanding your customers.

If the consumer most likely to purchase your service is male, your message should be male-oriented.  If it’s women, it should be female-oriented.  Super Bowl viewers were most likely men under the age of 50, so scantily clad women garnered a better response than cowboys or bad boys.  I haven’t seen the demographic breakdown, but it’s quite likely the women voters were split between the cowboys and the badlanders, but you never know, they could have been for the showgirls as well.  The point is that knowing your customer makes the decision about spending your marketing and advertising dollars easier and smarter.

Let’s consider the consumer’s buying habits, too.  A recent market research study we conducted showed that buying decisions are most often influenced positively by a friend’s recommendation or by word-of-mouth referrals.  After those two, the Internet came up as the source for purchasing information across all demographic age groups.  Television commercials also ranked high in influencing buying decisions.  For those 55 and older, newspaper ads ranked quite high.  A column in USA Today (2-4-13) reported that the newspaper method of advertising may yet survive the digital onslaught.

Some secrets:  Work hard to get and keep word-of-mouth marketing working for you.  There is a lot of marketing truth in the concept that a client who has a negative experience with your business will tell 20 people or more while those who have a positive, enjoyable experience are likely to tell 5 or 6 people.  Talk to your customers and deal with any negativity immediately.  However, when it comes to social media rants (negative comments), your best response is often no response or to let your favorite fans knock down the negativity.  Your response might only give credibility to the negative comment, but an apologetic tone may minimize the damage.  Think before you act.

You should have a strategy in place for dealing with social media issues, as well as any potentially negative publicity about your business.  Hopefully, you never have to use it, but it is better to have a plan in case it does.

Here’s a case in point:  When I worked for the U.S. Jaycees, there was a case before the U.S. Supreme Court about allowing women to join the all male organization.  I was lobbying for a plan of action should the 350,000+ member organization lose the case.  I was told by the higher ranks “We’re going to win” so there’s no need for a loss strategy.  We lost and had to scramble to put a response in place, which was poorly planned and executed as a result.  Today the organization has less than 50,000 members.

Your Internet presence must be user friendly and relevant.  Being relevant means you need to know your consumers and prospective customers.  They will scan and leave your website if the content is not relevant to what they’re looking for or takes too long to find.  Seconds count when it comes to Internet success.  How often your website content changes and is updated is also critical for the major search engines to find you, and the relevance of that content to what users are searching for is also vital.

When you have a grasp of who your clients and prospects are, your success in reaching them can be ensured with a sound marketing strategy to deliver your message to your target audience in a way they are receptive to and that makes them buy from your business … and feel good about it.  Consumers should be coming to you for the experience you give them.



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About Coach

Terry Misfeldt is President and Trail Boss of Brand Irons, a business and marketing consulting firm based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Terry has conducted numerous feasibility studies and prepared a number of business plans to secure financing for clients. Terry and Brand Irons specialize in creating corporate brand identities based on the results of studies and plans to market businesses successfully.