Three Reasons Why You Don’t Really Know Your Customers

 do you know your customers

So…you think you know your customers.  You know who they are, what they care about and what they want.  You have a really good grip on what life looks like from their perspective.  You’ve done research.  You’ve done a lot of listening.  You really understand your customers.

Are you sure about that?

There are three reasons why you may not know your customer as well as you think you do.

#1 – The further away from your target market, the harder you’re going to have to work to understand them.

Are you ready and able to put away every pre-conceived notion you have about your customers?   Are you able to market to someone with a completely different life view than yours?   Are you willing to admit to your own biases?

Because the further away you are from your market, the harder you’re going to have to work to create something that works for them, not you.

Episcopal Community Services

Let’s look at the example of a soup kitchen in Kansas City that is set up like a restaurant.  Episcopal Community Services substituted buffet lines with sit-down service.

The soup kitchen serves food restaurant-style to homeless people, a process which includes greeters, waiters and a side of respect.

It’s all about dining with dignity.  If you are homeless, respect and dignity are in short supply or non-existent.

The further away you are from your target market, the harder you’re going to have to work to break through stereotypes to truly understand them.

FYI this is one of the main reasons why marketing to women efforts fail.

Take The Buchanan Test to see if you are stereotyping women in your marketing.

#2 – You know how your customers are alike, but not how they are different.

Boomer women

Your customers may look the same on paper, but are they?

Most companies have specific brands, attributes and products that appeal to specific audiences. Marketing departments focus on sturdy trucks for people looking for strength and reliability, reward programs for frequent business travelers, high-end appliances for style conscious home owners, beer for active on the go Millennials, retirement planning for Boomers with $250,000 or more in investible assets.

It’s important to design your brand or product around the needs of a specific audience.   But within that audience, do you understand how your customers are different?

This is especially important if you are marketing to women.   Women are not some monolithic group that has the same wants, needs, values and buying process.

Yes, a lot of work has been done in segmentation.  But most of that is based around demographics, most notably, around generations….Millennials vs. Boomers, etc.

But you can have two women who look identical demographically who could have very different values, priorities and decision making styles.

For example…..there is a huge difference between someone with a Take Action decision making style vs. a Think It Through decision making style.

Take a recent case of an invitation to a financial dinner seminar on retirement planning.   Two women in my neighborhood got the same invitation. On paper, these women looked nearly identical – similar families, occupations, home value…their kids went to the same school.

Yet they had very different reactions to the invitation. There was a box where you have to check Yes or No to the question, “If you find the seminar information to be valuable, would you agree to a meeting with the presenter?”

The Take Action type woman said, “Sure. If the information is good I’d be open to a meeting.”

The Think It Through type woman said, “No way. I don’t even know who this presenter is, and you want me to commit to a meeting ahead of time?”  She actually chose not to go to the event because it felt, “Too pushy.”

Do you know how your customers are not only alike, but different, and how those differences will affect how they respond to your marketing materials?

#3 – You don’t know who is influencing your customers

Who is influencing your customers?  What do you know about important people involved in their life and their decision making process?

Understanding how others influence their life is one of the most important customer insights a company can have.

Here is an example, a disturbing one, but it shows a deep understanding of “influencers” that need to be taken into consideration.

A domestic violence shelter shows visitors a message as soon as they pull up the website.  It reminds visitors that their internet usage may be monitored and gives them a “Be Safe” button to quickly click out of the site and a phone number they can call if they need to exit the website.


Do you have this level of understanding of your customers and the influencers around them?

If you’d like to have a better understanding of your female customers, let me know.   I’ve been researching the differences between men and women consumers for over 15 years and I still learn something new every day.

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