Monday, May 31, 2010

Four Tenets for Engaging the Customer

By: Derek Howard

When it comes to making purchases, we as consumers have numerous reasons we buy stuff. These can range from simple and straight-forward to convoluted and complex. For some consumers, it’s a question of brand loyalty, for others it’s almost a game―searching for the best product through dozens of sites or stores. For some of us, it’s as simple as price. Either way, understanding consumer behavior is important to any business and, unsurprisingly, has become a big business itself.

Companies pay top dollar for research to find out why we prefer one widget over another. Though nowhere near exact, some attempts have been made at turning this into a science. Two examples of this are VALS and PRIZM.

VALS (which stands for Values, Attitudes and Lifestyles) is a system that divides people into various psychographic segments. When participants take the VALS questionnaire, their answers determine which of eight segments they fit into, ranging from Innovator to Survivor. Marketers can then use this information to find out what a product’s target market might be.

The PRIZM segmentation system from Nielsen also divides people into different segments, but it then goes on to show which of these groups are located in a specific geographical area. You simply type in a ZIP code and the system will give you a broad view of its demographics (I warn you, this can be addictive). The segments have such names as Upper Crust, Old Glories and Family Thrift. The site will also give you general info about these groups, from lifestyles to media choices.

However, regardless of any fancy algorithms or costly research, sometimes it’s the simple things that offer the best solutions and insights into what makes a customer tick. And a lot of that has to do with a company’s refocusing on consumer behavior’s close cousin, customer service. As consumers, we like to feel wanted. I don’t necessarily have to believe that my purchase is the most important thing to a company, but a little appreciation is, well, appreciated. Many businesses are finding success with this approach.

One such advocate of this is Jay Greene. In a recent article he wrote for Advertising Age, Greene described what he called four marketing axioms businesses can and should use to engage their customers.

First, he said that companies need to connect on a personal level with their customers. This means getting inside their heads―finding out what and how they think/feel about stuff. Once you know how things look from a consumer’s perspective, you can use those insights to position yourself in the best possible manner.

Next, Greene advised companies to really develop and nurture their core values. If you’re honest and up-front about what you stand for, customers will see and remember you for it. He even suggests linking your brand with a cause or social initiative that best exemplifies your values and allowing your customers the opportunity to get involved.

Then comes the reminder to innovate. As he so eloquently put it, “Innovation is the hallmark of a premium brand.” A company’s ability to constantly improve and adapt to changing market landscapes can really set it apart from its competition.

Finally, Greene ends with what he considers the most important axiom, what he calls “Remember the love.” Companies should always keep in mind those little things that make their product be loved by the customer. This can help not only act as kind of a check-up for a brand, but also remind companies what it is that they love about their customers as well.

Understanding the customer can be a very complicated and costly process for a business; not understanding them has an even higher price. But sometimes it’s the most basic and least costly answers that are the most effective.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment!