One of the biggest challenges in our cluttered communication world is competing for customers – their attention and a share of their wallet.
Customers, or people as we plain-speakers like to call them, get bombarded by marketing and sales messages every time they watch TV, listen to the radio or pick up a device – Facebook, Insta, You Tube – even the games on their phones come with advertising.
So how do you cut through? Make sure your messages say what your customers want to hear.
Get to know your customers
How? Ask them. Talk to them, survey them, send them an email or an SMS asking for feedback.
Can’t ask them? You might have to revert the tried and tested Aussie approach of “suck it and see”.
I think my UX colleagues call it A/B testing.
Your customers will quickly show you what they like and what they don’t – usually with their mouse or finger – they’ll click on, tap or engage with the offers that speaks to them. They will ignore the ones that don’t.
Let me give you a real life example.
Monty lives in my laundry (and on the couch) and makes my life very difficult when he doesn’t get what he wants, when he wants it. Sadly, he can’t just tell me what he does and doesn’t like. I have to go on what he will and won’t eat.
Simply put, if the bowl is empty my message got across, if not I have to change my offering.
Very much like designing offers and communications to customers – although some of them will tell you their likes and dislikes through chat and comments, most of them will just act / or not.
Competing for Monty’s loyalty
For most of 2019 Monty has been a cat biscuit kind of guy. Happy to chew his way through a bowl or more a day.
Midway through the year, I decided to try him out on cat milk – to see if I could get him sold on that value add and up his engagement with my brand.
The milk was a hit! For 6 months, he’d shout the house down twice a day until he got his fix.
A happy and loyal customer.
But, I dropped the ball. I went away for a few weeks and didn’t leave a supply of cat biscuits.
In stepped my competition (the husband). He had a product he wanted to get off the shelf quickly (sachets of wet cat food left over from before we got Monty). So, he went for the quick sell. No biscuits on offer, so no competition.
Two weeks later I get home to a cat that flatly refuses to consider biscuits. My product offering is over-shadowed by wet cat food. I can spruik my biscuit offering as much as I like – sprinkle gravy over the biscuits, mix them with tuna – but to no avail. My competition took advantage of my radio silence and sold my customer onto his product.
Serves the husband right really, because now he has to buy six cans of cat food a week, rather than one box of biscuits.
Customers aren’t cats, are they
OK so not all of our customers are cats, and I hope not many of them eat cat food.
But, the same thing can happen to our customers if we don’t listen to them, anticipate their changing needs and communicate offers to meet those needs, in language and through a channel that appeals to them.
Monty never SAID he wanted cat milk, but I know a bit about cat likes and dislikes (life-long cat slave) so thought I’d give it a go.
I thought Monty was happy with his cat bikkies, so it didn’t even occur to me to try something new. My lack of customer focus was the opening my husband needed to win Monty over to his product.
Something similar happened to Kodak in the early days of digital cameras. Their customers had been happily creating Kodak moments for years. No need to change, the customer was happy. Until this new product comes along that is quicker and easier than film. No waiting for the chemist to print your photos – you can see them right away.
And you can carry them around in a small portable device, no need for big, heavy photo albums.
Just like Monty and the wet cat food, the customer is gone, never to return.
So what can you do?
Get to know your customers. Read their comments on your website and app, listen to them in the call centre, try to get out of the office and meet them. Find out what they like and don’t like about your offering (product, service, content – whatever you offer).
Try new things – based on what you learned about their likes and dislikes. Track the success of each new thing you try. If it doesn’t work, stop offering it – no harm, no foul.
If it works, you’ve just created a successful new offering – or in the case of my disloyal cat won a new convert to wet cat food.
Obviously, you need to be sensible and not create expensive new product lines, based on a hunch. Start small (and inexpensive) and the next thing you know the cat bikkies will be pushed to the back of the shelf and your customer will be buying cans and cans of lamb flavoured cat mince!