How up to date is your customer avatar or your ideal customer profile?
It is easy in this period post-COVID when we are concentrating on rebuilding as B2B and B2C businesses to go with what we used in the past. Doing an audit of our customers and how they engage with our company can seem like a low priority given all the competing priorities as business owners. Yet long term success is often about paying attention to the small things that seem inconsequential.
Michael Levine has written a book, "Broken Windows, Broken Business", the premise of which is that problems in business stem from inattention to tiny details. Inattention to the changes brought by COVID to our customers can significantly impact the future success of the businesses.
We are familiar with the ideal customer persona or the customer avatar, as it is now called. Google "customer avatar", and you are presented with myriad templates allowing you to build avatars ranging from simple to complex.
Avatars are helpful in understanding our clients and allowing us to better identify the challenges and problems they want to solve. However, we can fall into the mistake of seeing our avatars as the customer rather than the real-life customer who may be much messier than our avatars.
In business, it would be wonderful to always have "ideal customers". The customer who buys our product because it completely solves their problem, who pays upfront for our service, are repeat customers, and refer our business to their friends.
However, the ideal is not reality. Customers are more irrational than our avatars, they forget to pay invoices because of the pressure of their lives and often are more demanding than grateful.
We all have a bias towards consistency, stability, and rationality because this allows us to create structure and predictability to survive and thrive. Without structure and predictability, we would experience stress and react to situations.
The ideal customer or avatar allows us to create this structure and predictability. The risk is our bias towards consistency and predictability will result in us unconsciously replacing the messiness of real customers.
If we are not aware of this bias, our customers may continue to change while we remain providing services to fixed ideals. This will not significantly impact a business in the first six to twelve months. However, the gap between the ideal and the real customer will begin to impact business productivity and sustainability two – three years ahead.
Customer expectations of businesses have changed in many subtle ways; however, we will consider three of them.
Social media impacts how businesses interact with potential customers and clients. This impact has accelerated due to the effects of COVID lockdowns, where people were on social media more frequently and buying online.
The Rule of 7 has now multiplied as there are so many more touchpoints where businesses can interact with clients.
With social media, there is greater segmentation of potential clients or customers using different platforms and how they use these platforms. This means businesses need to nuance their marketing campaigns to these client segments and how these segments use social media. For example, Facebook generally has an older demographic than TikTok or Snapchat. And Gen Z's use social media in different ways to previous generations.
Businesses need to be more intentional about how they market on the different platforms to build brand credibility and consider the times they advertise to achieve the highest brand visibility to build brand awareness.
As written in a previous article, the more recognisable your brand is to your clients and customers, and the more differentiated your brand is, the better your client engagement will be.
Customers now expect businesses to demonstrate social responsibility and are increasingly influenced by and make decisions based on ethical considerations . It is no longer getting the best value for money; consumers consider whether the product is ethically made in terms of sustainability and whether staff are being treated ethically and receiving fair compensation.
Customers are now willing to pay higher prices if they believe the company is engaging in sustainable practices or contributing to the improvement of society or the environment.
The impact of social media and the expectation of our customers for businesses to have policies and actions around social responsibility is not necessarily reflected in our ideal customer avatars. This is where we need to audit our ideal customers to make sure our avatars reflect our actual customers.
3. PRODUCT OR EXPERIENCE?
When we sell a product, it is easy to think that adding value to the product will create more sales. What often results in marketing campaigns is we enumerate all the benefits of a product and expect customers to see the value of the product and make a purchase.
However, how value is perceived is often subjective and based on other important factors other than the product itself. These factors are the emotional and social value of a product. In other words, will this product or service enhance what the client considers essential at an emotional and social level.
These social and emotional factors are often unconscious and ill-defined. Yet, they can significantly impact whether a client engages with our organisation than purely logical or rational reasons based on the value of the produce or service we provide.
We have all had experiences of going to purchase a product or service. We have done our market research; we have found what we believe to be the best company to buy from, yet when we have contacted the company, we have not purchased from them, but gone with another organisation. Why? Because we were emotionally put off by the person, we had contact with.
Customers are often seeking a product to achieve an emotional and social experience. If we do not understand this and think that simply adding more features to the product or service, we provide will encourage customers to engage, then we miss out on those people who are seeking an emotional and social experience. For example, selling or leasing photocopiers isn't just about the capacity of the photocopier to make copies or scan; it is about a smooth operating office where copying is reducing rather than increasing the stress and tension of the day and staff have more time to engage with productive, satisfying work. This is the social and emotional component of a photocopier.
We need to ensure our avatars capture the total experience of what our customers are seeking; otherwise, our products will not meet their deeper needs.
How up to date are your avatars? Do you need to spend some time making them closer to your real customers, not just the ideal ones, so you can continue to improve your customer experience and loyalty?