Know Your Customers…Or Else

Over the last couple days I’ve been learning from the best of the best at HeroConf 2014 in Austin. The conference was full of great sessions, awesome conversations, and actionable tips for two full days. I had a blast and the sleep debt I’m dealing with today is proof of how much fun it’s been.

how-well-do-you-really-know-your-customersDuring the opening keynote by Bryan Eisenberg and in many of the breakout sessions I began to sense a general theme just under the surface. It was there when we were talking about conversion rate optimization (CRO) and landing page optimization (LPO). It was there when we talked about display advertising, Facebook PPC, LinkedIn PPC, and Twitter ads. It was there when we talked about AdWords & BingAds. It was an unspoken assumption more than an explicit point, but it struck a chord with me. Do we know our customers?

Know Your Customers…Or Else

As a PPC-only conference, the content was extremely focused, but I noticed that presentations and conversations all had an assumed level of knowledge. From a tactical perspective this meant that speakers could be much more advanced by assuming that attendees already knew the basics. It made for some amazing presentations.

However, one of the more abstract assumptions being made was that everyone knows their customers. That they have accurate personas that describe demographics, psychographics, and emotions. This kind of deep, intense knowledge isn’t gained easily and must be earned. Think of how many tactics require this knowledge:

  • Targeting – As we move beyond pure keyword-based PPC, targeting options are increasingly available. Gender, age, interests, skills, etc. are attributes of who our customers are, not just what they’re searching for.
  • Messaging – How do you write emotion-evoking ad copy if you don’t know the frustration, pain, elation and passion of your customers? Human beings buy on emotion and use logic to justify their emotion.
  • Conversion – We focus so heavily on the goals. The conversions. We optimize to cost/conversion or cost/impression or profit if we can. But those numbers that we monitor and optimize toward represent people. Are they happy when they convert? Do they feel like a kid in Disneyland who just got handed a free Mickey-shaped ice cream bar?

The more I listened and watched, the more I realized that we as marketers must not be doing a very good job of understanding our customers. Low CTR = Your ads aren’t tapping into the fundamental needs and emotions of the customer. High bounce rate = Your page didn’t convey an understanding of their pain and need. Low conversion rate = Your offer isn’t delivering value that your customers relate to and understand (even if you pull your hair out in frustration because you can see it).

So What Can You Do?

Let’s move from a discussion of our deficiencies to a discussion of potential. If we don’t know our customers as well as we would like, how do we get to know them better? Here are 2 ways to improve:

  1. Interact With Customers More – If you’re in marketing, take some time to go listen in on customer service calls. Have a store? Go out into the store and ask people “What are you looking for today?”. (Don’t ask if they need any help because they just say “No” or “Just looking”. Keep the question open-ended.) Work online? Send thank you emails to customers out of the blue or volunteer to respond to complaints and support requests.
  2. Realize You’re Not Your Customer – Don’t get defensive and hear me out. You may have been in the same situation as your customers when you started, but you work for a company now that provides a solution. Your knowledge level now exceeds the knowledge level of when you were your target customer. You have a memory of the pain while your customers feel the pain.

As we gain a better knowledge of our customers we’re able to be better marketers. We’ll target more effectively so that our ads are in front of the right people. We’ll write better ads that speak to their pains with empathy. Our landing pages will frame the value of our offer in a way they understand. Our support and followup will reinforce and increase that value through the life of the relationship.