When we talk to potential customers about their marketing needs, the conversation quickly expands to focus on their sales goals, and then ultimately to their business goals. Why? Because when a customer interacts with a brand, that experience is measured by that person as the sum total of all their experiences with that brand, not just a single marketing event, or an isolated customer service interaction. It’s therefore important that when we think about marketing, or any customer-facing interaction, that we think about it holistically.
A potential customer may have seen your booth at a trade show, received an email from your organization, met one of your other customers, or seen an online advertisement about your company. All of these marketing opportunities combine to create the customer’s holistic view of your company.
How To Identify Your Customer
But this raises a complicated question: Who, specifically, is the customer, the target audience, or the probable audiences? Answering this question is harder than you think. Let’s use an example of a client that we helped through this exploratory exercise. When we initially asked them who was their main customer, they told us ‘architects’. That answer is technically correct: The architects are the ones who get invoiced when this company’s product is purchased. But let’s dig a little deeper into this answer to fully understand the customer experience. Our conversation with our client went something like this:
”So how do architects interact with your products or services?”
“Well, they place the orders.”
“OK, so let’s go back to the beginning. Let’s review everything that occurs up until the order.”
“Well, the architect hires a firm to write the specification.”
OK, now we’re getting somewhere! After some more digging into the specification writer’s [spec writer] role, we learned that spec writers operate pretty much autonomously and define what products the architects will use for each project. And spec writers default to the products they know, choosing the products they are familiar with. In this client’s case, most spec writers are unfamiliar with their products. How do we know? Because we asked the client to connect us with spec writers and they told us so. Now we’re really getting somewhere! This revelation provided valuable insight into the product selection process, which in turn altered our marketing approach.
Why Knowing Your Customer Is Good Business
In this example, is the client’s response that the customers are architects the correct answer? Technically, yes…but will focusing our marketing efforts on architects result in better engagement and ultimately increase sales of our client’s products? Probably not, since architects aren’t selecting the products. Spending those efforts on improving engagement with spec writers certainly would be better!
So, to understand who your customer is, it’s vitally important to understand how they engage with you and what their process(es) are, and then to define the audience(s) you need to target and what that engagement looks like. For us, this was a valuable lesson in knowing the customer and helped us understand how important it is to ask our clients the right questions in order to improve our ability to meet not just their marketing goals, but their sales goals — and ultimately their business goals.