TLDR: if you’re still focusing on how YOU see your product, don’t be surprised that it’s not selling. Here’s how to jump into your customer’s dirty shoes.I recently visited the Boréal café in Geneva which is a sort of local Starbucks: cosy, high-end, with prints of Ethiopian scenery covering the walls. But I didn’t make it past the entrance, when I noticed this bin.
We see versions of this with our clients all the time. One client told us “of course we’ve talked with our customers — 200 of them! That’s how we know their age split”; another reassured us that he’s “asked customers about the packaging, and it’s not a problem for them”; a third built their product based simply on a wish made by executives they encountered.
What’s the problem in these examples? Well, the first managed to talk to 200 customers and get nothing but their age. For a healthcare product that is working to build trust, a deeper understanding of customers’ needs and state of mind is critical. The second client clearly talked only with existing customers; sure, they’re happy with the packaging, and that’s great. But if you only have 30 repeating customers and it’s not enough to pay the bills, why not try and see what the non-buyers think about your packaging? The third client didn’t involve the executives in the product development process, so only realized after the product launch that it no longer fit these executives’ needs.
So — what would we do differently? We always recommend that SME marketers talk to at least 3 of their customers every month, in a semi-structured way. Specifically:
– If your marketing is aimed at converting non-users, talk with them first. Understand their needs in your category —it is easy to identify a strong need by the fact that actions are taken to address it. But apart from non-users, talk also with heavy users, light users and lapsed users to learn what it is they love, hate, or just don’t notice about your product.
– Make sure you ask the right questions in the right way; having an interview plan and questionnaire makes a big difference. Respondents will often tell you what they think you want to hear; amazingly, even on phone surveys respondents often embellish the truth. Having a structured questionnaire will help you stay on track, so that you don’t end up having a friendly, supportive, but useless conversation.
– Notice gaps between what they say and what they do. Especially if you have the chance to visit a customer’s home — look around (with permission): you can gain precious insights by hearing what they say, seeing what they do, and considering the gaps between the two.
– Pay close attention to emotional needs. While people tend to emphasize the rational grounds for their behavior, it is emotion that often ends up driving purchase decisions.
And if by chance you work at Boréal, show your customers you care by placing a little garbage bin next to the umbrella bin. You can immediately use it, to dispose of that absurd sign.