Your Best Bet For Effective Insights
If you ask most marketers if they actively conduct research, you will get a lot of head nods. The questions is are they confusing activity with accomplishment? Sure they “checked the box” and did some obligatory legwork before they spent valuable company resources on their initiative. They likely chose surveys or perhaps made the extra effort (and expense) to conduct a focus group. Better than nothing, but often not much better. However, did they conduct the best possible research they could to enhance the chances of success? The answer is “probably not” if they did not engage in some form of ethnography-based research.
At its core, ethnography is the study of human behavior. It helps you see not just what your customers do when they interact with your product or service, but why they act that way. It aims to answer the question, “How do people interact with my product or service?” and “How do they incorporate it into their lives?”. Ultimately, “How can I make it better for them?”
What makes ethnography-based better than other types of marketing research? First, it approaches your customers or clients on their own turf and on their own terms. Conversely, when you call in a group of customers for a focus group, they know they are in your environment – not theirs. Even worse, they often end up giving you answers that are not genuine. Subconsciously they try to please you and anticipate the answer you want to hear. Their best intentions actually corrupt the research altogether.
Ethnography-based research requires the researcher to observe participants actually using the product. It is not just them looking back on how they use it. In this approach, you meet with people on their terms, in their space. This gives you a much more authentic view of the in-setting usage characteristics.
Ethnography is often more in-depth and usually more expensive than other types of market research. But you get what you pay for. When done properly, it results in products and services that are much more tailored to the real needs of customers. You can see what they need—what they lack—and create the solution accordingly.
Here is an excellent article for you to learn more on ethnography-based research.
Consumers are Very Sophisticated – You Must Be Genuine.
Avoid Being an “Online Used Car Salesman”
Today’s consumer can smell a disingenuous company a mile away. When they catch a whiff of BS, they quickly jump ship. Why? Because the Internet has created a space in which people can easily be phony. It’s much easier to present a façade online than it is in face to face interactions. They have seen it way too many times. It’s left people craving honesty and authenticity.
What Constitutes Authentic Marketing?
In short, it means is being true to your brand promise, and treating customers as friends. When you value these people, they value you. It is that simple. Cherishing that connection and staying true to it is essential. Businesses that “push the envelope” look greedy and impersonal. Those who practice authentic marketing are seen as friendly, substantive, and worthy. Here are some ways to market your business more authentically:
- Cultivate consistency – One of the biggest indicators of inauthenticity is inconsistency. When a company can’t seem to decide on who it is or what it wants, it’s going to be viewed as disingenuous and even sneaky. Be consistent with your message and the voice that delivers that message.
- Provide proof – If you make a claim, have the data or anecdotes to back up that claim. We’ve all seen politicians lose favor in the public eye because they make false claims. Avoid that at all costs, since being authentic means being transparent. That means that you’ll be accountable for your claims. Make sure they are backed up by facts.
- Respond promptly – Social media has given all businesses the opportunity to talk directly to their customers on a daily basis. When someone asks a question via social media, have a real person personally answer that question (or respond to that complaint or comment) as quickly as possible.
- Choose a cause to support – Pick something that you or your business has a real connection with. There are so many charities and projects that you can easily find one that matches your brand’s personality and goals. Supporting a cause that you really care about will show consumers your human side.
Take it from Will Smith:
“Smoke and mirrors in marketing is over; it’s really over,” said actor Will Smith at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Consistency – The Key to Proper Messaging
Sometimes advertisers seem more concerned with being clever than with being effective. Unfortunately, sometimes those who develop ads and messaging are more focused on the flash rather than the substance. Don’t get caught up in this with your marketing campaigns.
Buyer behavior is affected by both overt and covert cues. Basically, the mind is tuned in to all stimuli, and uses these various inputs to form an overall impression. When these stimuli do not align, the mind is faced with cognitive dissonance. A term used by psychologists. It is a fancy way of saying confusion.
A current TV commercial is a prime example of confusing messaging. It is for U-Verse high speed internet service. The message they are trying to convey is “reliability”. The setting is a family at home talking about their reliable internet service. The problem with the messaging is all hell is breaking loose around the house. Ceiling fans falling, faucets leaking, walls crumbling down. All while the family members are giving their testimonials about reliability. It is not a quantum leap for the mind to include U-Verse with the things breaking around the house.
Imagine if an investment firm (focused on trust, confidence) had as spokesperson a used car salesman, plaid coat and all. Even if the messaging was well-scripted and funny, the observer probably would not want to trust their investments to the firm. People naturally seek a more conservative, straight-laced figure that enhances their trust in the firm.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for humor in advertising. It just should align with the overall theme of the messaging. Beer ads are a good example. Funny things happening are associated with having a beer and having a good time. It works well for beer ads – not as a means of building consumer confidence.
Newsflash for ATT/U-verse: Your main competition (Comcast/Xfinity) is directly challenging your reliability in ads. Why would you even think about using household mishaps as a source of humor? It is ridiculous.
When you are developing or approving messaging – as yourself one basic question: Is the main theme of this messaging in alignment with my brand DNA?
If your messaging is not promoting your brand, it is demoting it. And of course wasting time and money in the process.
What is the most critical point in the selling process? The answer is open to debate, with many events playing key roles in the process, including:
- The initial introduction
- Fact-gathering by customer
- Pricing negotiation
- “The close”
While I am not quite sure which is most important I can assure you that the most under appreciated segment is right after the sale. You read it right; AFTER the sale. There is a common buyer behavior called “buyers remorse”. This occurs right after a significant purchase is made. It is the sub-conscious at work, questioning the decision “Did I buy the right thing? Should I have waited for a better deal? Should I return it while I still can?”
These are the types of questions we ask ourselves after a purchase – and it is a natural phenomenon, we are only human. As marketers, however, we have a weapon to fight this. It is called “purchase reinforcement“. The best marketers/sales people out there make a common practice to do a lot of “hand holding” with customers right after a purchase. The best car salespeople, realtors, furniture salespeople, etc. all make it a point to keep on working after the customer signs the agreement.
It can take many forms, from simply a follow-up letter, to free accessories (after the sale is final), follow up phone calls reminding the customer about service schedules, etc. A simple but effective tactic is to simply call the customers, and ask them how things are going after the purchase.
The key is to “pleasantly surprise” the customer with a little extra something that makes them think they made the wise, informed choice. Even more importantly it shows them you CARE – care enough to follow up with them to make sure all is going well. This will have a calming effect on the customer. It will help quiet that voice in the mind of the customer that is nagging them about the purchase.
Try building purchase reinforcement into the sell cycle for your product or service. Ask yourself, what little extra thing can I do to show the customer how important they are to me, and that they made a wise choice. If you do it well, you will be building long-term relationships with your customers. It gets you out of the mindset of “transactional” events versus relationship building activities.
You are better off not trying to “figure out” what customers want. Jobs was a master at it for sure. Blessed with tremendous intuition and savvy, along with some sort of internal mechanism that allowed him to gaze into the future. He would then come back and join the rest of us to build then things that we would wait in line overnight to be the first ones to buy. Genius, visionary, all of the superlatives have been worn out.
Enough about Steve, lets get back to you and me. For us to be effective marketers we have to do a few things (in addition to conceding that we do not have what Steve had). We, along with almost all other humans on the planet, have to rely on good old fashioned marketing research. Darn!!!
So how can we “figure out” what people are looking for? Conventional wisdom is to ask them. Sounds good doesn’t it? However it does not generally work so well. Often people try to anticipate what you want to hear, and try to answer along those lines. There is a common misconception in certain circles that focus groups are “high end” marketing research. Unfortunately most people are nice and like to please others, unintentionally subverting the purpose of our research. So, we aren’t Steve Jobs, and we cant trust people to help us decide what they want to buy. What are we supposed to do?
The answer is OBSERVE. Actions speak louder than words. People often think they do one thing when in reality they do something completely different. If at all possible, seek out actual users of your product and watch them using the product in a natural setting. I realize this is easier said than done, but challenge yourself to find creative ways to see your product being used. You can do it yourself, or you can hire an ethnologist to help you out.
It is definitely a lot more work, but you will get a lot more valuable information using this approach.
Of course you are familiar with how bad news travels faster and is remembered longer than good news. This means that you have to do about 4-5 good things for every not so good thing you do. That is how you keep a balance.
Similarly, customer experiences will have a recency effect also. The last portion of their experience will carry the most weight in their overall rating of their experience. For this reason, you have to be very sure you do a very nice job with all the finer details even when the transaction is over. There is a grocery store near me that has not mastered this concept. They have great fresh food, excellent selection and other things that contribute to a top notch user experience.
Unfortunately, the paper bags they provide have an issue with the handles. On more than one occasion, the handles have failed resulting in a scramble to keep the groceries from spilling all over the place.
In this instance, these were an “afterthought” for the store. If they had a good handle on the recency effect, they would understand that this is a CRUCIAL aspect to the shopping experience, trumping most other shopping experiences.
In your business, dont skimp on the bags (or whatever they customers takes home from you). It could leave a lasting negative impression, even if you do everything else right!
To deliver a fabulous customer experience, you have to end in a fabuloous way!