If there’s one piece of information you can find out about your customers that would most improve your brand, marketing, as well as your actual product or service itself, it’s the answer to this question:
“What did your customer do before they found your business?”
In other words, when it comes to the need you’re addressing, how do your target customers currently deal with it?
Instead of focusing on the solution you provide, it’s about understanding what change your customer wants to make. What do they want to improve in their life? And how are they addressing it?
New customers arrive at your website or see an ad knowing little to nothing about who you are and what you do.
What they do know, or at least feel, are their own needs and pain points.
And when it comes to understanding how a particular pain or need affects someone, there’s no better clue than their current behavior.
Keep in mind how they address their need may not relate to your product or service. It may not relate to your direct competitors either.
When people have a real need in their life, they can get very creative in finding ways to solve it (or not!).
Looking at their behaviors helps crystallize the way your customer thinks about the issue.
It can help uncover answers to:
- Which aspects of the problem are most important to them?
- In what context do they think about the problem or possible solutions?
- What words do they typically associate with the issue?
- What’s their willingness to pay for a solution?
All of those questions contribute key pieces of information for how to engage your customers.
To highlight how you can apply this, we can look at a couple examples from our brand consulting clients.
Some Customer Behavior Examples
Over the past year, we’ve worked with a company that created a dieting app for people who need help planning meals and tracking their nutrition intake.
In our market research, we saw that one of the most common ways their audience tracked their diet was with a DIY approach. Despite all the dieting apps available out there with fancy features, this group preferred to use pen, paper, or just a good old fashioned Excel spreadsheet.
For the questions above, this segment’s answers were roughly:
- Most important aspects: speed, simplicity
- Context for how they think about the problem: basic list
- How they might describe the need: “food diary”
- Willingness to pay: essentially $0 (minus their own time and effort)
These folks aren’t in the mindset of bells and whistles. They’re coming from the world of bare bones and easy.
That’s key information to know.
It meant that messaging to this group needed to center around ways to improve on their current solution through automation, ease of use, and improved nutrition data provided by the app.
While this situation was fairly straightforward, other customer needs and behaviors require more unpacking.
Another client we’ve worked with recently, is developing a product that can help with an even trickier need — anxiety.
There are lots of potential ways someone might look to address anxiety:
- Scrolling social media
Depending on which route they choose, a customer’s point of view could vary a lot:
- Most important aspects: physical exertion
- Context for how they think about the problem: mental and physical health
- How they might describe the need: “get this pent-up energy and tension out of my system”
- Willingness to pay: Anywhere from $0 (e.g. “go for a run”) to high-end gym memberships
Compare that to…
Scrolling social media:
- Most important aspects: coping / distraction
- Context for how they think about the problem: (They may not actively view it as a problem at all)
- How they might describe the need: “Let me see what my friends are doing”
- Willingness to pay: $0 for social accounts, but unseen costs of their time and data
Unlike the dieting app example, these customers may not be seeking a strict replacement for these things.
If the customer uses exercise to help with anxiety, they might want a product that supports and complements that effort.
If the customer notices they turn to social media when they feel stressed and anxious, they may seek out a product that helps them focus and be more productive.
The point is that the way you speak to these customers and their needs could vary quite a bit depending on what their current behavior is.
When you unpack those behaviors, it allows you to position your product or service more effectively as something that will improve that specific customer’s life.
Start Unpacking What Your Customers Do
To start gathering this key information about your customers, you have a few options.
The first step is to establish a foundation of who your target customers are, what you believe their needs are, and how they currently satisfy them.
To validate and refine your work, you also have several options:
- Interview potential customers (see our how-to article for interview tips)
- Conduct surveys with your target audience (see our services to help with this)
- Find the social channels they use or join online groups to learn more about their needs and behaviors
- Look for other studies or market research in your vertical
The important thing is to get feedback and data about your target audience out in the wild. You need to know how they view their needs and what they do right now to address them.
The more you can learn about these ideas, the stronger the alignment will be between your customers and your brand, and the more new customers will want to engage with your business.
Get Help Connecting With Your Customers
If you’re ready to build stronger connections with your customers, reach out for a free consultation. We’ll help you transform your best business thinking into an actionable, shareable, growth-oriented guide. Click below to learn more about the Brand Guidebook process.