When it comes to understanding our customers there is one fundamental thing that we continue to forget. Our customers are numbers measured and dissected by sales figures, demographics, location etc. Things that help us break down and understand them. Someone once said to me that he is the Financial Director and the Marketing Director of his company because marketing is all about numbers. So in his mind, who else is in the best position to look after the marketing than the man who counts the money.
But does number crunching really tell us who our customers are? If I asked you to tell me about your family, would you break them down into categories and identifiers and numbers? I’d be concerned if you did and would suggest you take some time off from work and get to meet them again. I think the answer would be more along the lines of stories filled with good times and laced with emotion that only you could give. Why? Because they are a part of you.
The most fundamental thing that I believe we forget is that our customers are, wait for it… Human. They are just like you and I and our own families. Seeing them as human’s changes the way you approach them.
As humans, we all fall into a set of innate instincts that guide our behaviour and patterns. These behaviours are the underpinning roots of our motivation. The reason why we do what we do. These are what Maslow called the basic human needs of motivation. We can’t escape them they are a part of our human DNA. We are controlled by them.
These needs fit into several stages of being. They are the three basic needs: the need for safety, the need to belong and the need for self-esteem.
This is simple survival; we pay our bills, put food on the table and protect ourselves and the ones we love.
We all want to be accepted by our peers. You can only look at Facebook to see how powerful this need to belong is. But we had it way before social media, just ask why they would have George Clooney drinking a certain coffee. It isn’t because we all know he is an expert on coffee. That’s not what George gives us. What George brings to the table is a persona that we all think is very desirable to either have or be with. With this in mind, if George drinks this coffee, then doesn’t that make the decision to try it ourselves that little bit easier.
Is what we have when we feel good about ourselves. Like that sense of achievement, you get by success or winning. For example, we may buy that expensive car not because everyone else has it. Because they don’t. It is you that drives this car because it is you that has earned it. One of the reasons for the outlay of such an expense is to tell others how well I have done.
Now remember these are innate traits, so most of the time you don’t even know why you are doing it, it just comes naturally.
So what does this all mean to the way we view our customers?
It means that our customers are not numbers to be broken down, but are humans. So the questions we should be asking is not so much Who, What or Where. But WHY.
Why do they buy our products?
If you need to break down anything it is better to break down what human needs are our customers satisfying when they buy ours or any other product? Have they bought the raincoat to keep out the rain (the need for protection) or is the coat what every other person is wearing right now (need to belong) or because they just want to look cool (self-esteem). Answer those questions first then you will understand who your customer is.
Of course, demographics are important to delve deeper, but they don’t gain an understanding. So next time you are analysing your customer or working out that new product to release. Ask yourself what human need are you trying to fulfill? The answers are there if you ask the questions.