How to Think Like Your Customer
Learning how to think like your customer is one of the most critical skills you can develop as a marketer. Scores of market research companies spend millions of dollars each year in an attempt to gain some type of insight into what makes the average buyer tick. However, there’s a big difference between being able to describe your customer (e.g., stay-at-home moms, ages 35-50) and actually understanding how your customer thinks. If you don’t make this distinction, you run the risk trying to fit your target audience into a mold that’s based on assumptions rather than reality, a mistake that could prove costly to your marketing efforts. So how exactly do you crack the code of customer behavior? Below are two key tips to help you get into the minds of your customers in order to achieve optimal results.
1. Find out where your target audience likes to hang out online.
What type of social networks does your target audience use? What discussion boards or forums do they frequent? Where are the online outposts in which you will find them giving their opinions (good or bad)? Locating the places where your customers can be found “in the wild” will provide you with valuable insight into their likes and dislikes, as well as what’s important to them. Here are a few ways you can do this:
- Search for Facebook groups that represent your target audience’s interests.
- Look for subreddits (i.e., interest-based sub-communities on Reddit.com) where your customers would be likely to hang out.
- Use Google to search for discussion board forums that characterize the interests of your target prospects. For example, if you sell golf clubs, you could search for golf-based forums using the following Google search query: “golf + forum” (without the quotation marks). Choose the forums that have the highest level of activity, as indicated by thread/post count and total number of members (most forums provide this information on their home page). Look especially for threads where a member has asked a question or needs help with a problem, as this can give you a better understanding of the type of common pain points your customers may face, and the type of solutions they’re hoping to find.
- Pinterest can be a treasure trove for marketers looking to understand what their customers would like to buy. A large percentage of images pinned by Pinterest users are what are known as “aspirational” pins, which are images that represent a user’s likes or desires (e.g., a dream kitchen, a new outfit or pair of shoes, etc.). Use the search feature within Pinterest to search for images that relate to the type of product or service your target audience is likely to be interested in; this will give you a good starting point to help identify your customers’ “like to buy” items.
2. Develop a robust buyer persona.
Again, a buyer persona needs to be more than just a handful of demographic data points (e.g., single men, ages 21-34). Take the time to delve deeper into the psyche of your target customer by figuring out what would motivate that type of person to buy what you offer.
Keep in mind that practically all of human decision making–including determining what to buy–is based on the desire to satisfy some type of basic need, whether perceived or real. While our surface level motive may not seem to be all that significant (e.g., need a new shirt for the office party), there are usually deeper underlying reasons behind the purchases we make, including one or more of the following ideas:
- Popularity or respect: The desire to be admired, liked or respected.
- Self-confidence: The desire to look good and feel better about ourselves.
- Wealth: The desire to have financial security and/or the opportunity to make more money.
- Security or safety: The desire to feel safe and be free from danger.
- Love or romance: The desire to be loved.
- Health: The desire to stay healthy and live a long life.
As you’re identifying your target audience’s most likely motivators, keep in mind that customers buy benefits, not features. In other words, no matter how awesome you think your product might be, customers are ultimately going to ask “What’s in it for me?” before they make a buying decision.
Take a good look at the various features of your product and see how you can best match those features to a benefit that your target customer would like to receive. Which desires from the list above are addressed by your product? Once you’ve clearly identified how your product will fulfill those desires, you can then direct your marketing efforts in a manner that puts the customer’s mindset front and center, which will ultimately lead to more sales and higher conversions.