Three tips for knowing your customer

The most important part of your advertising is not your headline. The critical part of your offer is not your benefits. Instead, the most important part of your marketing efforts is about knowing your customer.

This principle is simple in theory, but frustratingly hard to put into practice. Usually I hear marketing managers complain about lack of budget to run more research. But, in fact, customers and prospects give away information about themselves all the time. Through every response, customer contact, event, transaction and web site hit, they reveal parts of their behaviour and preferences.

Here are three simple techniques that all agency planners use to better understand a clients customers. You don’t have to be an experienced planner to use them, instead take a hint from Nike and just do it!

1. Empathize!

In the One-Minute Sales Manager, Ken Blanchard writes: “Before I walk a mile in your shoes, I must first take off my own.” This is the hard part of trying to think and feel like your prototypical customer, to shed your own biases. Basically, you can’t completely ignore your own biases, but it is still very useful to try.

Run through a whole day of your customers life in your mind, not just the situations connected to your product. Visualise her life from when she wakes up to when she goes to sleep. Focus on time and emotional elements; the frustrations, the little victories, the slow minutes, the rushed hours.

This little exercise usually turns up a nugget or two and will help you find ways to be more relevant and engaging in your communication and in your customer relationships.

2. Philosophise over sales data.

There’s more to these numbers than just hitting your goals and getting your bonus. Unlike questionnaires sales data is real behaviour. These are the economic footprints of the people that actually bought your product, not the ones that ticked a box saying they might buy it. Look for patterns here.

Do you sell more on Tuesdays than any other day of the week? Why? Does the Christmas buying rush start in the north and roll southwards over time? Why? If you compare it to other categories are there similarities or anti-trends? Why? Why? Why?

This is particularly useful if you can come up with an explanation. And even better if you can’t disprove it if you try to. That theory can usually be exploited right away, and it is the best possible input to the sales force, the advertising agency and to product development. Just remember to test it out by observations and other research when you get a chance.

3. Check what your customers are looking for?

I mean, when they actually search online. Google has a couple of research tools that you get to use for free, and all instructions are on their site. Keeping track of what words your customers search for is a clue to how they think of your brand, product, and category. The order in which search terms are used, and what words get combined with your category or brand gives additional hints to what kind of problems customers are experiencing, and sometimes where they expect to find the solutions.

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