Let me be frank — if you’re not pitching a tent in your customer’s head and learning what they want, when they want it, how they buy, and who they trust, you won’t have a business — you’ll have a hobby.
I get it. You don’t have a sack of cash to spend on hiring a CIA operative who can sleuth their way into your customers’ cold, dead hearts. So, you churn out branded content based on resources like Ask The Public, UberSuggest, or Quora before you develop a clear, comprehensive profile of your customers’ habits, behaviors, preferences, and pain-points — the whole psychographic kit and caboodle.
Stockpiling generalized content is fine if you’re desperate for something, anything, to write about. Publishing pretty grams in hopes something will stick, or building products and services based on what you think your customers want instead of what they’ve told you they wanted, is fine if you want to continue on your hobby-as-a-faux-career trajectory.
If you can’t pinpoint your customers’ triggers (why they seek out the products and services) and pain-points and devise solutions that solve their problems, you might as well have five days of puppy videos as content.
Customer Loyalty — What?
“71 percent agree that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever.”
People have a proliferation of options. They can smell fake a continent away, and they’ll shift their attention, clicks, and dollars to people who stand out and whose values align with their own. No longer do they have to accept a brand’s bullshit PR blitzkrieg (eh-hem, McDonald’s, if only your “socially distanced” arches reflected how you treat your employees), fake values and pithy platitudes. Rather, consumers demand companies embody their core values from the inside out, and they’ll punish you if you don’t act from a place of decency.
The grim reality is customers are not as loyal as they used to be.
They’re either spiraling down the tunnel of cheap, snatching up products and services on Amazon or Fiverr, or they center their attention on values-based brands that make a concerted effort to cultivate a real relationship. The kind of relationship where you don’t treat them like a Tinder date, bolting out the door before the sheets have cooled.
Because who cares, right? You got exactly what you wanted.
Wrong. If you’re solely focused on customer acquisition, you’re playing in the 2018 minor leagues. Your customers not only demand an exceptional product or service, but they expect a superior customer experience between points-of-purchase. So, less like a Tinder date and more like a marriage. A marriage that requires communication and compromise.
While you may not have the time to conduct a customer segmentation study (my 22-minute tutorial is worth it, friends), here’s a simple way to get more intel on your customer. It’s not perfect. It’s far from complete, but it’s a running start. And it’s better than creating fictional personas in a conference room rooted in zero data and insights.
You can access a goldmine of information from Amazon and YouTube. Both platforms will give you insight into how your customers think, feel, and do when it comes to the products and services they purchase.
The best part is that your detective work comes free of charge, and it’ll keep you competitive and current.
Why Amazon and YouTube
Think about it. According to Google (proud changeling parent — kidding), 80% of the 18–49 demographic tunes into a YouTube channel and viewership of YouTube videos on television has doubled year over year. Users compose a third of the Internet with billions of hours of video watched per DAY.
While Google is the de facto text and image search engine, YouTube is considered its video counterpart. In short, your customers are probably on YouTube interacting and commenting on videos — especially in the research and evaluation phase of their product purchase journey.
Amazon’s reach and influence are formidable. According to Statista, Amazon was the #1 online store in the United States in 2017 with sales of $178B and a customer base of 310MM worldwide. And based on a 2019 survey of 2,000 U.S. customers, 89% agree they’re more likely to purchase one of Amazon’s 120 million products instead of venturing to other e-commerce sites.
Your customers are windowshopping at retail to determine where they can find the best value, and they’re likely buying products similar to yours on the platform. And if anyone has ever read (or survived) Amazon reviews, you know that people have opinions.
As a marketer or business owner, you have free, unmitigated access to information from two global giants — sites that are part of your customers’ everyday lives. And you can eavesdrop on the conversations transpiring between customers.
Let’s Start Sleuthing on YouTube
Let’s say you own an upscale coffee shop. You sell organic, fair-trade brews and delectable pastries. You want to keep pace with trends and your customers’ tastes and preferences. So, you visit YouTube and search for similar premium coffee shops that share your client base (or the kinds of clients you seek to attract).
Watching company-created videos will spark content ideas. Reviews from fans and influencers who highlight aspects of the business that are important to them will give you insight into where your competitors are falling short and how you can leverage their blindspots as your business opportunity. Dig into the comments to see what your customers are saying about everything from the sourcing and coffee quality to the service and marketing — the good, bad, and the violently ugly.
If I’m an upscale coffee shop owner, I might check out Blue Bottle Coffee as an example. Typing in “Blue Bottle Coffee” (use the parenthesis so you can get that exact search term instead of sifting through results of coffee, blue bottles, etc.) yields nearly thousands of results.
Straight away, you get content ideas for your social media channels: how-to brew tips, the latest in brewing tools, and pour over coffee tutorials. You may see some videos that reference Blue Bottle having been acquired by Nestle. In this video, you can view comments that offer an incredible amount of information for the small business owner. You get context about the market and demand for specialty coffee, and how small business owners can carve out space from themselves amongst the giants.
You can also see that fans are concerned about the quality of Blue Bottle’s coffee, change in price, and a potential shift in company culture. You have access to the full spectrum of your customers’ pain-points from “here comes the decline in quality from blue bottle beans” to “what do you think will happen to green coffee prices?
As Inspector Gadget (Gen-X reference) on a budget, you can use this intel to your advantage to talk about the benefits of being a neighborhood coffee shop, sourcing, store culture, and the consistency and quality of your coffee with pride. Personal connection and quality still matter to customers, and you can make that a key point in our store signage and local marketing efforts.
Scan through other videos and comments. Take screenshots, save videos, and jot down ideas for new content and products that your customer craves.
Now, Let’s Talk About Amazon
Let’s say you sell digital products, specifically eBooks and courses on managing your social media channels without screaming into polyester pillows. You might search for how-to books or authors that your prospective customer might browse online. Not only do the questions on Amazon give you a treasure trove of information, but so do the 3-star reviews.
Similar to our YouTube example, you’re looking for gaps — specific issues with content, product, and customer experience. For example, check out the reviews of this book. You might make sure that you won’t lean too heavily on one tactic, i.e., giving ad tutorials. Or, you might take a giant leap back and show your customers how they can design goals and objectives for their social media strategy and what those objectives will actually achieve.
Because saying “I want 100,000 fans” means nothing because we live in an age where you can buy fans and engagement.
Pour over the reviews and interactions between the customers in the comments under each review. Consider this you being a fly on the wall, listening to how your customers are talking about the kinds of services you offer.
While YouTube and Amazon will get you going, your best resource is the source. Here are a couple of tips on how you can research your customers’ habits, preferences, and pain-points.
- Look through questions that come from your customers at all phases of purchase (pre, during, post), as well as questions and comments that come via competitor Amazon pages and social media. Are you seeing common questions and themes that can be transformed into social media posts and content?
- Read, respond, and ask questions in your blog post/social media comments. If your customers are engaging, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- In your local communities or in online groups/forums, if there’s an event, stick around. What are people talking about? What questions are they asking? What wants/needs/problems are they expressing?
- View your customers’ content and how they interact with their peers. Peer-to-peer questions and feedback can be excellent fodder for future, proactive content.
- Interview them — just chat with your customers! You can do this informally via your email marketing by asking for feedback, or formally with surveys so you can get a general sense of the kinds of content & experiences they crave.
You might not have the time, money, and resources for a customer segmentation study, but scrappy sleuthing can be just as valuable. And it’s better than crafting creative fictional customers based on your subjective point-of-view.
The sun rises and sets with your customers — not your ego. Don’t create brands, businesses, and experiences in a vacuum. Your customers will tell you what to sell, how, and where to sell it — only if you’re willing to listen, be agile, and humble.