Two Strategic Questions
There are times in life when you notice the same topics cropping up. It’s hard to know if it’s in the general zeitgeist or just on the tip of your brain, but lately I seem to be having this same conversation with so many business owners, I figured it’s probably a sign that it’s a topic worthy of exploration.
Back when I was a junior marketer I cannot tell you how many teams I worked with or campaigns I was involved on where, if someone had just considered these two simple questions, our strategy, planning and results would have been vastly improved.
What’s even more important is that answering these questions won’t take the sun, moon and stars. This is not a strategic planning exercise that will see you and your management team off-site for 3 days making tough decisions. It should be the easiest two questions to answer; your responses will give shape to your strategy and pull you back on track if some misinformed zeal takes hold.
1. Who is your customer?
This seems basic right? You can answer this in your sleep, yes? They are your bread and butter, am I right?! So the question may feel, at first, oversimplified and reductionist, but I genuinely ask you to give it some consideration. If you cannot easily answer this question in a twitter-friendly minimal character count response then you may be veering into the territory of not having a clear enough idea of who your customer is. I hear this time and time again in so many of my conversations with businesses, and you need to be ruthless with tunnel vision clarity over your customer segmentation.
“But Tamara, we have a range of products aimed at a diverse network of customers.”
Go for it! That’s great. As long as you can summarise who is the target customer for each product or service, and you’re not diluting your brand by having too diverse an offering then you should be fine.
Why do you need to define & understand your customer?
There are endless benefits to knowing your customer, and equally endless risks if you don’t. Let me break some of them down in a little more detail for you.
Cast a wide net and catch no fish.
Michael Porter famously wrote, “Strategy 101 is about choices: You can’t be all things to all people.” If you are trying to appeal to everyone, you will resonate with nobody.
Maintain your brand identity
If you are trying to appeal to everyone at the same time, how can you possibly hope to have a clear, definable, compelling brand identity?
Try to think of even one brand which appeals to every single person at all times in all places…it just doesn’t exist. By our very nature we are diverse in our opinions, values, tastes, ethics, etc. and no one product or service is going to be adored by everyone.
Have meaningful conversations
Again, if you are talking to everyone at the same time then you are not having a meaningful conversation with anyone. You are going to slip, very quickly, into a bland, boring tone of voice and you could run the risk of alienating the very customer you are trying to connect with.
Messaging & creative execution
You have maybe 3 milliseconds of attention span before you are overlooked entirely. Your messaging needs to be so compelling that your 3 milliseconds turns into 15 seconds, and maybe a click (if you’re lucky). How can you hope to develop such a compelling messaging or a creative execution if you can’t define your target?
Let’s think about this with a hypothetical example of the people around you. You use your phone for financial transactions, your Dad listens to the radio and watches TV, your brother is a gamer who loves podcasts, your nieces are on TikTok, your neighbours get the train to work and your dog has an Instagram account. You will rarely (if ever) find us all consuming the same media in the same format from the same channel. If you want to connect with your customer you need to know who they are, where they communicate, how they travel, where they socialise etc. This is going to help you narrow down your channel choice and devise a more strategic cost-effective communications plan.
Who isn’t your customer?
Just as important as knowing who your customer is, you should know who your customer isn’t. By defining who is outside your target audience you can shape your messaging, target your investment and track performance more effectively.
2. What problem do you solve for them?
By understanding your customer in detail, you are in a better position to know what problem your product or service is solving for them. This is not the same as saying
“I have a fantastic product and I think my customer would like it”.
Not even close, unfortunately. Your business needs to be driven and informed by customer needs and if your product or service does not solve a problem or fulfil a need then you are going to struggle to make a meaningful impact.
Why should you seek to solve problems?
In order to shape and define the parameters of your marketing campaign you need to have a creative execution that is supported by a shrewd understanding of your customer needs. If you run with a campaign that is informed only by your product benefits you are going to struggle to be impactful. Remember those 3 milliseconds? You’re going to want to scratch an itch immediately if you intend to drive any level of consideration or spontaneous recall at crucial moments during consideration.
Rational vs irrational
Even in cases where your customer’s need is irrational or driven by an emotional connection, it’s vitally important you are aware of it. Consider the case a luxury brand; it is very unlikely that a customer needs to spend €1,000 on a pair of shoes or €100k on a car. The need does not lie in the function of the product, but in the emotional response to the investment. Without fully grasping the subtle difference your business will miss an opportunity for connection.
Sales funnel positioning & timing
You understand your customer and now you can enhance this knowledge by understanding their unique needs or problems. Based on this you can consider the timing involved in your sales funnel.
From discovery to conversion, you will be in a better position to plan your communication strategy and associated timings.
Credibility & relevance
By effectively responding to customer needs or problems, you are subtly driving your impact as a credible and relevant thought leader in your category.
Your product may be relevant, and you are confident in this fact, but if you cannot position it in such a way that your customer understands its benefits in the context of their own unique need then you are going to take a hit in relevance.
Developing new products
We all know a growing business should not stand still and should continually seek to improve or renew their products or services. How can you confidently do this without first understanding the needs of your customer? By developing and nurturing this understanding you can continue to tailor your business offering to align with a shifting customer need. By honing your offering you solve problems and maintain relevance.
Customer retention & loyalty
All of these factors combined will allow you to maximise your customer retention, or to devise an informed retention strategy. Happy customers are stickier customers, and a customer who feels understood and valued will be more likely to consider your business for a repeat purchase in the future.
So the next time you are giving consideration to your comms strategy or a new marketing campaign, try starting with these two simple questions: Who is our customer? What problem do we solve for them? It might just simplify your planning and drive a more effective, impactful campaign.
Quite informative, look forth to coming back again. Allyce Nathan Dougherty