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Getting Inside Your Customers Heads

Jun 8, 2008
When you are in business, your task is to meet the wants, desires and needs of your customers. Easy!

This is much harder than it sounds. Each person is totally unique and if you look at their individual wants, desires and needs you will never be able to satisfy them all and you will go broke trying.

This is where statistics comes into play. If you get a large enough group together they will begin to form a statistically coherent pattern. You can use this pattern to gain a little glimpse into what is going on in your customer's heads. That is the purpose of things like census data - to look at big enough groups of people to help governments make appropriate policies.

Back at the turn of the century the statisticians looked at things such as demographics. Businesses worked out their best customers were all of a certain age, spent a certain amount of money, lived in certain areas, had certain jobs and visited certain shops.

Demographics were a great start to help us to segment our customers and to help us work out where we should target our marketing. Even today you will find print media will provide you with demographic data on their readership to help you make a decision about whether or not to advertise in their publication.

The problem with demographics is they don't take into account large variances within groups and they don't take into account the changes in how people view the world. 30 years ago you could look at a demographic profile and make a decision that if you wanted to reach businessmen of a certain income and age you should advertise in the Financial Review or Wall Street Journal.

These days people gather their information in a more varied way. With the internet people search for precisely what they want - they hang out with like-minded people and exchange ideas and information.

Readership of newspapers and magazines are dramatically down. TV viewing is down. Radio listeners are down. People go to their clan or their group to find information. Using demographic data as your sole way of making your decisions is not helpful to your business.

So what has replaced demographics? In recent times we have started to look at psychographic profiles. We work out the common things our best customers think, value and believe in.

Psychographics are where you start to look at why people do what they do. To do this you ask questions such as:
* What needs are your best customers looking to fulfil?
* What beliefs about themselves and the world do they hold?
* What inspires them?
* What problems do they have?
* What is similar in how they view the world?
* Where do they hang out?

Psychologists have been doing something similar for years when they look at tools to help profile people such as Myers Briggs, Team Management Index, and Belbin. All of these are ways of categorising ways people view and interact with the world.

Let's make this a bit more practical so you can see what role this plays in business and getting inside your customer's heads.

One client I have specialised in kitchen and bathroom renovations. We started with demographic data and found that 95% of all their clients were over the age of 40. They lived in their own home, were employed in white collar jobs earning a reasonable but not excessive income.

We then started to dig a bit further to look for similarities in their lives and how they viewed the world. All of them had raised their families and finally as the kids were getting a bit older they had some discretionary income that they chose to spend on themselves. "It was their turn" was a common saying among these clients when talking about their renovation. "They had put up with things for years and now they deserved something nice."

The one interesting thing was every single house was extremely messy and the clients apologised about the mess to the tradespeople.

So how did this translate into our marketing? Well we placed an emphasis on it being their turn and deserving nice things. We also made mention of the fear of people looking down their nose at your house and how the tradespeople the company used were real people who understand if the rest of the house wasn't in show perfect condition.

We also used pictures and colours that reflected the taste of their customers (and not some over the top flash designers).

Is this manipulation? No. We just looked at what was already there with their customer base and sought to understand their needs better.

The business wanted more customers just like the ones they had, so by directing our marketing to the psychographic profile of their best customers made it easier for customers to feel right at home with the company from the marketing. This translates to more sales from the right customers.

Now it's your turn to get inside your customers heads. Go back to your best customers ... the ones you truly love working for. What makes them so great? How do they view the world? What problems are they trying to solve by coming to you? What do they value? Where do they hang out?

While you are at it have a look inside at yourself. What makes you so great? How do you view the world? What problems do you love to solve? What are your values? Where do you hang out?

When your profile and your customer's profile are congruent, then your business booms. If you are in a state of flux and you are not clear on your own profile, then business can be challenging as you attract the wrong type of customers to your business.

Getting clear on your own profile and the profile of your ideal client makes marketing easier, selling easier and your life easier.
About the Author
Ingrid Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter with her Brisbane Copywriting Business (Heart Harmony). Ingrid writes a free weekly small business newsletter packed full of articles and tips and Small Business Ideas blog for small businesses. www.heartharmony.com.au
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