“As a marketer you need to know your market, but you also need to lead your market.”
~ Ken McCarthy
Getting into your prospect’s world is the single most valuable activity you can engage upon if you want to grow your business. It’s also one of the most carelessly treated business activities and is often done superficially through surveys and leading questions rather than with a genuine desire to build understanding of your prospect and their concerns.
The Wrong Focus: Asking ‘What do you want?’
Surveys and focus groups provide notoriously misleading feedback for businesses because participants are judged on their responses rather than behaviour. Equally dangerous are opinions, statistics, gut feelings or any other feedback mechanisms that are not based on actually interacting with customers, observing their behaviour, and anticipating their desires.
You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating because so few people actually apply the lesson: “If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted they would have said, faster horses.” Instead, he thought about the bigger picture: a faster and more reliable way to get from A to B and gave them the Model T Ford. Equally, if Steve Jobs had asked people what they wanted, rather than having a bigger vision of what they would use, we would never have had the Apple computer, the iPhone, or the iPad (or at least, not so quickly).
Your Job is to ANTICIPATE and Lead Your Prospects and Customers
Most of the successful detectives in fiction and reality… the ones who actually catch the criminals and prevent more crimes from happening don’t even run faster than their victims; they are there waiting when they arrive because they get right inside their head and understand their target’s motivations, emotions, and modus operandi.
When business owners apply the same methodology to their prospects and customers then writing ads and making sales becomes almost routine because your positioning, your arguments, your images, your examples, and your proofs will flow easily from your mind and instantly attract the attention of your ideal prospect. Wave a piece of meat in front of most dogs and you will have their undivided attention… know your prospects well enough, and your materials will have the same instant impact.
… But how can you get those insights?
#1 Ask the Right Discovery Questions & Listen to the Answers
Your goal here is to discover what your prospects want and need, how they see the world, how they feel about their challenges and what they think those challenges are, and whether they have thought about a solution. You are trying to learn, not to lead.
The best kind of discovery questions to ask are interrogative questions (Who? What? Where? When? and How?) because these questions dig into your prospect’s thinking without leading them to a specific outcome. ‘Why’ questions should be used sparingly because they tend to elicit excuses rather than useful information.
It is useful to know what prospects think a good solution might look like, it is essential to know what and who:
- worries them;
- makes them terrified;
- they are unsure of;
- triggers their anger;
- they admire and believe in (heroes, values, religion);
- frustrates them daily;
- makes the decisions;
- they listen to, read, and watch;
- they buy regularly;
- they complain about regularly;
- represents ‘fun’ for them;
- triggers emotion, vision, or need in their life;
- language they use to explain their problems and needs;
I like to record conversations as well as take notes if the person I am talking to agrees because it helps me listen better in two ways:
- Even though I usually take notes, I know that I can go back to the recording or transcript to check things so I can focus more on what they are saying and ask questions to follow up; and
- We all make assumptions and have pre-conceptions about just about everything. The recording helps me really listen to what the other person says, and what they do not say. It’s hard to really listen when you also need to keep a conversation moving and I almost always find tremendous value the second time through.
#2 Observe Actual Behaviour Carefully
Asking questions is important, but you need to know what people actually do, not what they say they will do. One place to see this is in the book cover selection process.
Since I work with authors quite a bit, I see this play out regularly… the author goes to a focus group or mentors and says: “Do you like my book cover?” and gets feedback. Usually, they’ll come back to me and say something like, “These people are my target audience and they prefer Cover A because [reason is usually colour, photo, or similar]” Sometimes they agree to run an inexpensive direct-response ad campaign… and it’s shocking how often the actual behaviour contradicts the focus group response.
Recently a client asked me whether to put his photo on the front cover, an image, or just colour blocks and text. His mastermind had all reasoned that since he was well known and wanted to build his personal brand the photo would be the best choice and he trusted their marketing savvy, but he was aiming for bestseller status and wanted to check. In the event, the stand-out cover (based on actual response to advertising) was an image.
The point here is that what people say and think doesn’t always reflect their behaviour. That’s why you need to talk to people and ask the discovery questions above, observe their conversations in forums and other platforms, read your competitor’s sales copy and advertising and learn as much as possible about the pains, frustrations, insecurities and problems of your market.
#3 Fill Your Head So Full That it Spills Out When You Write or Speak
You need to become so familiar with all the insights you’ve gained that when you sit down to write emails, advertisements, explanations, or sales letters it spill out. In the same way, when you’re meeting with a prospect or customer face-to-face or via phone your mind is primed with the language you need to create a vision and demonstrate your familiarity with their world.
When you do this, you never need to worry about how to close the deal. Either your product fits your prospect and your conversation confirms this for them, or it doesn’t fit because (for some reason) they aren’t really an ideal prospect. You can’t convince someone to buy something for which they don’t see a need that justifies the expense or effort and if you’ve really got into your ideal prospect’s world and filled your head full of their desires and problems and they’re not interested, then they’re not interested… yet.
If possible stay in tough via email and direct mail so that when they are ready to buy, you are right there in their world.
#4 Think About Their Perfect Outcome
As a result of the questions you’ve asked and the observations you’ve made, you should know exactly what they really want. This enables you to reconsider your product and sales pitch.
Many of my service-business clients have discovered that they can double their prices and multiply the perceived value of their service by making tweaks based on customer feedback, but you can’t do that if your offerings are based on assumptions rather than intimate knowledge. One of the exercises we do together is based on role-playing the perfect product/outcome you can deliver to clients: everything you’d like to claim in a sales letter that would make the purchase a no-brainer. Interestingly, we found that often we could modify at least the ultimate service package to include most of these elements profitably, and then explain why others shouldn’t be there.
When you know your target market so well that you can accurately determine what a ‘perfect’ outcome would look like, the chances are you’ll never have to worry about what your competitors are doing again… you’ll always be several steps ahead of them in both your marketing and your delivery.
If You Don’t Know Your ‘Who’ Inside-Out then Your Marketing is Definitely Missing the Mark!
Craig Simmonds (www.simmondspolishing.com.au), is one of the savvy business owners who attends our monthly Melbourne Magnetic Marketing meetings demonstrates the power of this intimate market knowledge. Ask him a question about his marketing or suggest a way to improve it and he can tell you with uncanny accuracy if it will work or not. He is also able to explain authoritatively why he does or does not engage in certain activities. He’s not closed minded… he’s always experimenting and challenging himself in his marketing efforts, but he has experience and knowledge behind his convictions.
If not, maybe you’d like to come along to our monthly meetings and learn from business owners who are already effectively applying magnetic marketing principles in their business and creating increasingly profitable businesses. This is not your traditional networking event… there is no selling involved, just the chance to discover what’s working now marketing Melbourne businesses and talk to other knowledgeable business owners and marketing experts.
If you’re in Melbourne, why not visit our Magnetic Marketing Mastermind which meets monthly in Box Hill. To learn more and sign up for notifications visit https://memg.com.au