3 Questions to Better Understand Your Customers

Here’s a method that can help you understand your customers with more clarity and empathy, because every person on Planet Earth has a personal and unique response to these three questions:

Emotient's image of a young woman making sixteen different facial expressions.In my class, we discuss many kinds of research that help brands reveal aspects about their customers. And the data that is available for marketers is more robust than ever before. Big Data has empowered us to cross-stitch online behavior, demographics, buying patterns, predictive website searches and more. And, artificial intelligence will make the patterns reveal themselves with more precision. While the data and customer research about what people are doing can inform us about what they are likely to do in the future, there is also a more human approach — that goes deeper than the data — to understand your customers.

Here’s a method that can help you understand your customers with more clarity and empathy. While it takes thought, delving into these questions will invariably help with how you craft your brand’s relationships with your customers because every person on Planet Earth has a personal and unique response to the next three questions:

1. What Do My Customers Struggle With?

Everyone – including you, reading this – has struggles. It’s a human condition. We question, doubt, have concerns, worry, and are insecure or befuddled by something. Figuring out how your customers’ struggles interweave with your brand’s promise could unlock new ways to help them.

Example: Starbucks learned early on that their consumers struggled with having a place outside of work and home, where we could meet folks or be alone in a safe and comfortable environment. The traditional Italian “Bar” and the role it served in communities was missing here in the states. So instead of just a place to get grab-and-go coffee, they solved for a “3rd Place,” making a destination that went beyond the purchasing of coffee or treats. Starbucks knew that there were holes in communities they could fill, that there was a common struggle we didn’t even know we had.

2. What Are My Customers Motivated By?

Every person aspires to be more than they are. The desire to grow is innate, and we all want our lives to get better in some way. We each are looking for ways to improve and we gravitate towards brands that help us do that. The best brands understand that a simple transaction doesn’t have to be in, and that they can engage users into self-improvement of any kind.

Example: Sur La Table knows that offering terrific cookware products wasn’t quite enough. Their customers are motivated to learn how to be better home cooks, and make home life more enjoyable and rewarding. By offering the in-store cooking classes, and posting a regular calendar of new ideas, the individual stores deepen their relationship with their customers, and fulfill on their aspirations to make their home lives better with making higher-quality meals.

3. Is There a Memory-Emotion Link That’s Important to My Customers?

Deep in the core of our brains is the Hippocampus and Amygdala, two connected centers in our brain biology that stores both memory and emotion. Memory-Emotion is extraordinarily powerful in our lives, and these two magnificent aspects of the brain work in tandem to preserve the most deeply-embedded feelings and decision-making drivers in our lives.

As a brand, it’s awfully hard to construct something that is a powerful connector to memory. But if you’re in a consumer brand, there’s most likely some kind of hook or common experience you can tap into. You’ll have to dig into when your service might be a part of a memory in a life. Or you can see what kinds of experiences your customers might share, and tap into those shared memories.

Example: Subaru knows that their customers are active. They’re climbers, surfers, skiers, outdoors-folks. And they made the hunch that their customers owned pets. “Subaru owners are actually twice as likely to have a pet as other car owners and 7 out of 10 Subaru drivers share their heart, home, and – of course, their backseat – with a four-legged family member!” Source: http://www.dogingtonpost.com (no joke). Subaru launched an entire campaign with Golden Retrievers, and it was all about dogs doing the things we do in life (driving cars, going to pick up kids, etc.). Just videos of dogs. And, in their showrooms, they had dog bowls and dog treats. They knew a broad majority of customers have a shared emotional connection with love of animals…specifically their dogs.

And it paid off. My neighbor purchased a Subaru after her elderly dog passed away – even though the Ford Escape had a better warranty and lower price. She bought from the emotion-memory place of her brain, not the cerebral cortex where “better warranty and lower price” lived. When I asked why she bought the Subaru over the Ford, she said, simply, “Subaru loves dogs, and I miss Carson.” Emotion-Memory wins every time.

Look, these are not easy questions to answer. But they’re worth discussing with your team as to what really drives your customers to connect with your brand. This is really purposeful branding work.

As always, I’d enjoy hearing your feedback and comments.

Laser-Focused Direct Mail With Personas

The best way to increase your chances of great response is to mail to people who are interested in your product or service. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most effective is to create personas.

The best way to increase your chances of great response is to mail to people who are interested in your product or service. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most effective is to create personas.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Many marketers are familiar with personas in their inbound or digital marketing, but for some reason have not applied them to their direct mail campaigns.

Benefits of Buyer Personas:

  1. Ability to target the right people for each message — send them only offers that they are interested in.
  2. Increase response — better offers equal a better response rate.
  3. Ability to find more prospects like your current customers — when you profile other people you can match them accurately to your current customers.

By creating buyer personas, you can identify who your ideal customers are, where they are and what they want. When you combine this with variable data direct mail you can laser focus your message to each individual based on that person’s persona while getting the benefits of postal discounts for mailing a larger quantity rather than doing a separate mailing for each persona.

We get asked many times, how can we create personas? Here are a few ways you can start researching:

  • Interview or survey current customers — create questions that answer what you need to know in order to build your personas.
  • Review LinkedIn profiles — try to find the common themes between each of your customers.
  • Ask questions on social media — this can give you a larger pool than just your customers, but be careful to fully vet each person responding before you add their input to your research.

After your research there are some best practices for building your personas:

  1. Focus on motives not behavior. Why are they doing what they are doing?
  2. Keep them fictional, but be as realistic as possible. Do not base them off of your most important customer, this can give you a skewed result.
  3. Choose one primary persona, this should be the group of people that will make you the most money.
  4. Create a story for each persona that is explained in five segments:
    • What is their job and demographics?
    • What does a day in their life look like?
    • What are their challenges or pain points?
    • How do they search for information?
    • What are their common objections to your product or service?

There are two big benefits to adding personas to your direct mail. The first is that you can save money on services and postage — and since direct mail’s biggest expense is postage, you can save a lot by not mailing to people who are not interested in what you are offering. The second is by getting more people to respond because they are interested in your offer. So, while you are saving money you are also making more money. It is a win-win situation!

Have you tried using personas in your direct mail? How has it worked for you?