Take user feedback to heart, even if it’s not what you wanted to hear.
As a strategist, my goal has always been to know my customer and extract what “must haves” matters to them. This means:
- Search for real audience insights and opportunities to ensure all is known about the consumer, brand, category, project, etc.
- Understand what makes this opportunity different, special or competitive (capitalizing on competitor weaknesses).
- Once those insights have been identified, turn the ideas around them into solutions. Marry insights to a genuine product or brand truth and help to explain and clarify the logic of where we are going and why it matters in order to encourage customers to tell stories.
Any savvy business person knows that identifying the target audience for a marketing message means more potential leads, conversions and sales. In years past, this might have been tackled through demographic studies or charts of buying trends. But these hands-off approaches to customer identification and development simply no longer work in today’s world.
These days, everyone from marketers, to entrepreneurs to venture capitalists need to delve deeper into what makes their audience tick, what they want, and how they look for it. Analytics and information like age or income level (even what they bought last month) will always be helpful to track as you target your message. But in my experience, that won’t get customers in the door. (And not only can the right message sell your brand, it can actually get consumers to do the marketing for you.)
- Be User Focused
Make sure that you solve problems that exist. Make sure you are solving them in a way that appeals to the people who are actually affected by these problems.
- Seek Out People Who Love What You Do
If you are solving a problem in an elegant way, your fans are out there. They just haven’t discovered you yet. Find them. Knowing who those fans are comes from inherently knowing what void your product or service is filling.
- Forget Assumptions About What Your Customer Audience Wants
“Millennials can only digest 140-character blurbs.” “Older people don’t know how to use the internet or mobile devices properly.” “Only middle-aged moms, professional men, teenage girls or senior citizens buy things like mine.” Assumptions like these block any chance of understanding and reaching the people who are truly interested in what you have.
- Go Where the People Go Start Conversations
Gather data by targeting the full range of customers — happy, unhappy, recent, early, active, inactive — across geographies and through no fewer than three channels; including surveys, phone interviews, product intercept surveys, etc. Truly learn about your audience and what it takes to develop them as customers. Research trends, get involved and share your message the right way.
- Put the Focus on Relationship Building
Engage existing and target users to learn how to make your product a “must have.” Focus time and research on talking with customers. Coffee meetings with prospects are a good way for you to understand every detail of their problem.
Now, more than ever, consumers want to get to know people behind the company, what they stand for and how they will interact with them on a long-term basis. With so many products and services available to choose from, a company needs something extra to rise to the top. How well they cultivate their target audience and invite them into their world frequently translates into a stronger professional bond. Or, at its most basic, more sales or contracts.
The goal isn’t friendship. Instead, the goal is a bond filled with trust, mutual appreciation and value mostly for customers and not yourself. This is why content marketing is so popular and effective. Deliver the type of content your target wants, when they want it, to sites they are visiting.
Authenticity isn’t easy to achieve, but it is simple: You have to listen, you have to be honest and you have to be thoughtful with your message.
- Be Flexible Based Off Consumer Feedback
As you learn more about your audience, be receptive to the things you hear from them. Even if it’s upsetting to hear or presents a difficult problem to solve, take this feedback to heart and use it. After all, you sought them out.
- React and Adapt Quickly
Listening to your consumers means really listening. But it also means taking action. From a small tweak in marketing language to a large product pivot, it’s important to take action and adapt your mindset quickly to keep pace. Just remember to be thoughtful rather than reflexive in your reactions.
- The Delivery Method Matters
Since so many people are accessing the web from smartphones and other mobile devices, mobile is outpacing other more traditional ways of pitching your message. You have to tailor your message to the medium and you have to know which medium is the place to find your ideal customer. You have to live where your clientele lives. Highlight the benefits described by your “must have” users (those who say they would be very disappointed without your product).
- Get People Excited
When you are talking to your existing customers, you are talking with the people that are most vested in your success. They not only want to help you continue to improve but want to be involved in the journey of building your brand. Use this time to incite excitement in your product and to be innovative. Don’t just be a fact-gatherer; be a missionary.
It’s important to listen to your audience. Spend time in their spaces. Open up to even the most critical feedback. See what other people are doing to engage your idea market; instead of copying it, adapt it to be unique to your brand.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.