On a walk with my 12-year-old golden retriever, a fellow stroller stopped to pet him and as we waved goodbye, said, “always nice to meet another dog person.” That got me thinking about how certain terms bring to mind certain attributes. If this stranger and I had met without the leash attached to my wrist, and somehow had, in the course of our conversation, said, “Oh, I can tell you’re not a dog person,” that comment would have stung. Why? Being assigned the category of a non-dog person brings up, for me, an overly fastidious, closed-off person who stays indoors, is not friendly, and is even mildly grumpy. Just two words – dog-person and a whole wash of descriptive terms flood across our sense of self, instantaneously.
Getting deeper into what “dog person” means would undoubtedly generate 1,000 reader comments, but is not the point of this post. Understanding how an accurate portrayal of customer profiles really matter, when developing an on-target marketing campaign, is the point.
Often, campaigns end up developing out of what clients tell you about what their product does, or is, or how it performs, instead of what their customers know about the product.
Just because clients ask for a doggy bag doesn’t mean they are a dog person.
How do you have a client conversation – especially with a new client – that asks them to put aside established views about their products and solutions? That asks for serious time to re-examine and acquire feedback on who their customers really are, what they enjoy, what car they drive to work? Are they mountaineers, readers, golfers or loafers?
It is a turning point in an agency-client relationship, as these types of questions are often perceived as challenging, and in some cases may feel like they are questioning what clients feel is already a sustainable and profitable business model, resulting in a feeling of “why are you bothering me with this?” But for those clients who have a willingness to grow, and a consultative trusting relationship with you, examining traditional assumptions together can be extremely rewarding. Fresh insights and highly targeted campaigns arise from detailed information derived from conversations with end-use customers!
Clients are usually stunned when I first bring up getting together with their customers. But, if we have the opportunity to take ten steps back for our clients and approach their customers with some basic questions about the product or service our client is marketing, we never leave without a deeper insight, which could allow us to change the initial strategy. Never.
These can be questionnaires of course, but ho-hum, that’s a very dry method that usually works only halfway. Ah, the joy of old-fashioned phone calls – short, sweet and conducted with as few as 10-15 of your client’s customers. Not statistically significant, but highly effective.
Perhaps because we are perceived as “agnostic,” McDAY often hears things that our clients can’t hear, or their customers aren’t willing to say to them directly. Our smartest clients “get” this, and appreciate the candid feedback we are able to uncover.
At McDAY, we ask about the expected subjects – the product or service for which we are developing a campaign, but we also let the conversation meander – asking about hobbies, the time of day they enjoy using the computer versus the phone, social media habits, favorite lunch spot and of course, specifics about their work role, as it pertains to what our clients are selling. Off the wall questions can help open up any conversation, and delightful new ideas for how to connect with a customer group emerge.
We have fun with profiling and conversation reporting here at McDay. Big rolls of paper and crayons kind of fun. But you can do this too. Once a year, perhaps around your annual sales meeting, draw your clients – literally – and tape them to the wall of your conference room – or PowerPoint. Ask a room of technical sales and marketing folks to fill in their ideas about “their” customers – their thoughts, hobbies, and work habits, what they do on the weekends, even down to eye color (ok, don’t go that far), and let the fun begin. It can really inspire some on-the-mark campaign strategies that will delight and often cement your relationship with your own clients.
Bottom line – At McDAY we don’t just try and make you feel good by telling you you’re a dog person. We dig in and discover what your customers might not be telling you.