Figuring out what your target audience, or customers, want is essential for any business to grow. However, doing so can be a real struggle. Conventional feedback-driven marketing would tell you the following: step one, ask your customers what they want. Step two, give it to them. Step three, let the profits just fly in. The problem with those steps is that it actually leads you away from understanding your audience’s true desires, and thus profiting as a result. The reason being, customers don’t actually know what they want, and they’re horrible at accurately reporting what they really want, they’re true desires. To find your way around this inherent flaw, you have to start by asking your customers what they don’t want.
It may be an odd concept to wrap your head around, but consider what’s conventional as the alternative. Whether it’s a one-person operation of an online store or the founder of a business that has survived through multiple decades, the assumption about feedback-driven marketing is the same: Ask the customer what they want, then give it to them. There’s a major problem with this idea though- customers don’t actually know what they want. Take a moment to think about any surveys that have hit your own inbox recently.
“Would you use our product again?”
“Uhm… sure? If I remember it…”
“How would you rate your recent experience with us?”
“7? 8? idk… what do these numbers even mean?”
None of the answers to these questions can be trusted, that’s unfortunately a quirk with humans, we’re not very good at self-reporting. According to research by statisticians Thomas D. Cook and Donald T. Campbell, customers responding to surveys “tend to report what they believe the researcher expects to see” or even “what reflects positively” on them. So, if you ask “what do my customers want?” and they tell you, don’t spend any of your budget building something from it. Steve Jobs once said, “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”
This begins to raise a different question: “what should we do instead?” Leaving that question unanswered would be as much of a mistake as asking your customers what they want is. Therefore, you can’t simply give up on understanding your customers. There is a better way. Since asking what your audience wants will get you one misleading answer after the other, try implementing the exact opposite.
This is where we ask the customer what they don’t want through surveys based on the ‘Customer Journey.’ The Customer Journey is the concept that there’s a percentage of your target audience that has no clue you exist, the ‘awareness stage’, a percentage that doesn’t know why they should choose you, the ‘consideration stage’, and a percentage that is ready to buy today, the ‘action stage.” You want to craft questions that will give you answers to craft an emotionally compelling message that will help turn any cold prospect into a hot Sales Qualified Lead. For example, ask about their fears or anxieties that were motivators in their decision to become customers in the first place. Here’s a list of example questions that you could re-purpose for your own business.
Awareness Stage Questions:
Before you knew about us, what did you do to [solve the problem]? Was there anything you didn’t like about that solution? Why was it a priority to [solve that problem] rather than put it off until later? What would have happened if you kept putting it off? Knowing what you know now, what decisions would you have made differently when choosing a solution to [the problem]?
Considering Stage Questions:
What was the hardest part about finding the right solution? What frustrated you about the search?
When you first started looking up [businesses in your industry], what were your absolute “must haves”? What red flags did you watch out for? What preconceived beliefs did you have about businesses in [this industry]? How are we different? Is there anything you hate about businesses in [this industry], based on past experiences or word-of-mouth?
Action Stage Questions:
Fill in the blank, “I chose your company because ___.” Why was that important to you? Do you feel like this was a good decision? Why or why not? You hiring us resulted in [features, advantages, benefits]. What does this offer you that you wouldn’t have otherwise had? What do you think [customer’s situation] would look like now if you hadn’t chosen to [solve the problem]?
These questions are all very immersive because they go from casual conversation to quality feedback in the matter of a few sentences. However, if you’re still worried that your customers won’t be honest when completing your surveys or participating in a focus group, you still have options.
Often times, third party institutions will receive longer and more detailed, thus more useful, answers than any representative of a business itself would. Sociologists have found that people are more comfortable confiding in total strangers than people they know, like, and even trust. Customers are more likely to give people they don’t know “a piece of their minds” about something. Which ends up being the real feedback you need.
It’s time to take action with what customers want. After all, the information is useless if you don’t do something with it.
It’s time to apply the responses and rewrite every line of copy in your company’s marketing- website, collateral, social media, prospecting scripts, everything, based around the raw, visceral feedback you’ve received. With the right words you can create the right emotions and people buy on emotion. The words you use in your copy should come straight from your customers’ honest mouths. An example would be designing marketing collateral that explains step by step what customers can expect from your company. For the copy, re-purpose the customers’ own words to describe how your approach is different from your competitors’.
So by this point, it should go without saying; whenever a potential sale tells you everything they despise about your industry, that should be your cue to transcribe word for word everything they say.