If you want to be truly effective with your marketing, you have to understand your customer so well that you know the “conversation going on in their mind” that’s so personal they won’t utter it to anyone. How do you gain that level of intelligence from your customers? The answer isn’t a simple or easy one.
You can’t just survey people. All consumer polls, surveys, and research are deeply flawed for several reasons. The first is that many people don’t understand the questions asked because they’re barely paying attention and give abrupt, short answers. They also won’t get into the real emotional drivers upon which they base their decisions because that’s not how they consciously communicate.
One of the real ways women choose medical doctors for certain conditions is based on the age of the doctor. They don’t want to go to a younger male doctor because they feel intimidated, ashamed, and deeply embarrassed about their bodies. They want an older female doctor who’s closer to their age.
Most men won’t go to a young female doctor (or a really young male doc) for impotence for the same reasons. They want to go to a doctor who’s a peer in their age group.
But if you poll these patients to see why they chose the doctor they did, they’ll give more logical justifications, such as “they came referred” or “they had great reviews.” While that might be true and may have contributed to their decision, it’s not the exclusive reason they chose that doctor – and it’s not the MOST important factor.
Another problem with consumer research and surveys is that most people don’t consciously know they’re making these decisions. They feel pulled to buy, but they don’t analyze their choices.
Steve Jobs’ principle rings true here: it’s not your customer’s job to articulate what they want, that’s up to you to figure out. That’s where the big money is made – not chasing customers’ whims and surface requests, but knowing them so well that you already know what they’ll buy, what they want, what will get them excited – without them having to spell it out.
Here’s a somewhat crude example, but hear me out. Most people don’t want to ask for what they want when making love, because it kills the magic of the moment. No one wants to be barking instructions at a lover in the heat of passion, mapping out a play-by-play of what turns them on or telling their partner to stop doing what they’re doing.
The best lovers seem to anticipate what their partner wants. Women often get unfairly criticized for not directly telling their spouses what they want. Many women feel that if you’re so dense that you can’t figure out the most obvious things, you’re not paying attention (most of the time, that’s probably true). They also feel embarrassed to ask.
The same goes with your customers.
Some feel embarrassed to ask for what they want because they don’t want to appear to be a nitpicky complainer.
Others won’t articulate what they want because they feel the inadequacies of your service are so obvious that if you can’t see how dysfunctional it is, there’s no point in wasting their breath to tell you.
Others just don’t know what they want, but they’re experts on what they DON’T want.
Some are just too busy to think about it – that’s why they hired you. They want you to anticipate their needs.
So, the only way you can truly understand your customers is by first studying emotional intelligence, persuasion, and human behavior in order to gain a baseline understanding of human motivations.
Next, you have to spend time with your customers – listen to them, understand them, and go deep into the whys of what they do, how they run their business, how they make decisions, their hierarchy of value, and their unspoken desires.
That last one is the hardest, because you have to really pay attention and set aside your values, your thoughts, your beliefs, and be fully focused on them – no matter how irrational their decisions are. This takes practice and a willingness to master influence and persuasion.
While marketing professionals know that the ultimate benchmark of any idea, promotion, price point, product, or service is testing, they aren’t just blindly speculating. They’ve done the work to understand their clients on a deep level and can trust their guts to be right more than wrong. That’s a huge advantage in the marketplace, where most business owners are stuck on the “stuff” they sell and surface-level benefits.