As Customers take more and more control of how and when they want to receive information about products, services, brands, and companies, communicating with them will become increasingly challenging. But in some ways, everything old is new again. Just like when the proprietor of the general store knew intimately which products suited which customers, who was thrifty, who needed help carrying packages, or who wanted unusual items from far-flung sources, it’s important for us to develop intimate and individual knowledge of each of our customers. If you’re investing time creating new messages about your offering, have you taken time out first, to clearly think about who wants to buy what you are offering? If you have developed a detailed buyer persona for each type of customer who wants your product or service, it will make it much easier to see whether your messages and media are in line. If you are re-vamping messages you have used for some time, try putting those up against your buyer personae before testing or adjusting, and see if they hold up. You may find that, on reflection, some of what you want to sell just isn’t what your target customers want to buy.
The other thing to bear in mind is that there may be several different avatars who want to purchase from you. They may seem quite disparate and when you try to segment by demographics, the landscape may not make sense. But what they have in common is what they like about your product, and why—and while you’re trying to fit their “common ground” to old models, they’re off communicating with one another via the internet, or even the sneaker net. Who are the groups you’ll target? (Hint: target everyone is an oxymoron).
Most importantly, Marshall McLuhan’s ideal that “the medium is the message” has never been more important. With the growth of the internet as a source of information, shrinking borders, and the rapid uptake of social networking, customers go looking on their own for information; they don’t sit at home waiting for your advertising to drive them into the store. In fact, in some cases, they may even reject what you have to offer, because they disagree with your method of approach. So as you try and create a picture of each of the people who have already demonstrated that they want what you want to provide, don’t forget to think about where each of those individuals will go to find out more about you and what you are selling. Whether you learned that marketing has 4 P’s, or 5 P’s, or some other number, the “P” that stands for Place is now as much linked with promotion, as with channels of distribution.
Recently we asked some of our contacts how they conducted their search for their latest laptop (but it could just as easily have been their latest car, shampoo, real estate agent, or vacation). What they had in common was that nearly every person said they didn’t really look at advertising, except to scan for discount opportunities. They were more likely to research online, check websites with price and feature comparisons, and chat to their network about features and benefits. They read blogs and they asked questions. They looked at pictures of add-ons, checked out colours, and investigated size and weight specifications. Then they went to the store and bypassed the salesperson, until they were ready to check out.
So is all hope lost? Is it impossible to have any control over who buys your product, and how? We don’t think so. But it is complicated, and there are steps you can take to make the road easier, going forward:
- Find out who likes you, really likes you, and why.
- Look at where and how people just like them will go when they are looking for information and are ready to make a purchase.
- Make sure your messaging reflects their reasons for buying, and contains the information they need to make a purchase decision.
Ensure that information is readily available in the place they want to look for it, at the time they want to find it.
Megann & Steve