One of the smartest things ever said in business was, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
Do you know that one? It’s from Peter Drucker, the guy whose wisdom helped direct the invention of the modern business corporation. You should know him, of course. But, even more important (as he advises): you should know and understand your customers as well as he suggests.
Knowing customers, at its core, means understanding what’s in their minds and hearts. “Heart,” is, in my opinion, the vital piece. Because caring about anything, be it a human being or a product, service, or brand is emotional. It lives in the heart. (It’s also mental, so you need to understand the mind, too, of course. But the heart drives the mind.)
How to Understand the Hearts (and Minds) of Customers
It should not be news to you that the greatest tool yet invented to understand another human being (including your customers/clients) requires a skill as old as humankind: listening.
Do you want your products and services to “sell themselves?”
If so, you had better listen attentively and often. Once you have, if you have work to do (who doesn’t) you’d better adapt your products and services, the way you market them, the way you treat people, and whatever else listening advises. If you don’t, some competitor, or unexpected disrupter will. And you’ll be left holding the bag in the marketplace.
The best way to listen in today’s machine-driven world is online. We use the latest and greatest algorithms in Big Data to listen to companies’ customers. We do not do this to pry into people’s private lives. Our goal is the opposite. We do it to make their lives better. We are, as Peter Drucker advised, interested in “understanding the customer so well … (that your) product or service fits him and sells itself.” In other words, we give them what they want and need. And they reward us with a lasting company/consumer (or company/client) relationship.
Nor do we merely listen; that’s only a piece of the puzzle. We take a lot of care in how we listen, where and to what. Yes, we listen to lots of social media. But vague information such as “likes” and “thumbs up” is noise, pure and simple. You can’t base marketing on that. Likewise, your number of followers is not actionable. However, a make-or-break element of social listening is filtering on a huge lexicon of brand, category, product, competitor attributes: thousands of words.
Furthermore, we don’t just listen to social, but also to recommendation sites and customers’ very heart-driven online reviews. It is in the reviews where you really get the unvarnished truth of what’s in the customer’s heart and mind apropos of your offerings, your competitors’ and those soon-to-emerge disruptors in the market.
Only deep listening reveals the true heart of the customer, the why they feel so strongly, pro or con about what you offer and how you’re treating them. Such as:
- Specifically, why your products and services are failing them
- Or, conversely, what is delighting them, and why (are you listening, Marketing?)
- Which competitors (are the proclaiming to the world) are eating your lunch?
- Why they believe nobody is giving them what they desire (listening, Product Dev?)
- What disrupter you may have heard of (or not) is closer to their heart
There is simply no medicine for business improvement better than listening to what customers are most passionate about. Passion is a cornerstone. It’s the foundation of brand loyalty. If you heed their customer desires, and answer and correct for their objections, you will be able to take action on creating products and service that fit them better. More of your products and services will sell themselves.
Besides winning the approval of your senior management, I believe that Peter Drucker, who lived to the wise old age of 95, would be prouder of you, too.
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