Marketing Sense

A discussion of marketing tools and tactics with a common sense attitude

Marketing Planning – The Customer Speaks First

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on October 29, 2010

I’ve had the good fortune of collaborating with the folks from Street Smart Strategic Planning recently. It’s provided a refreshing perspective on the value and raw power of the customer’s voice in marketing planning.

Many companies barge into their marketing efforts believing they know what the customer wants to hear and how s/he wants to reached. Business people often LIVE in their industry category and know the business inside and out but overlook the fact they are not the customer (although they might try to tell you they are).

Most businesses tend to zero in on tangible differentiation – features and benefits, as a means to try and convince customers to buy. But “bigger, better, faster and more” can only carry a business so far – it becomes too easy for competitors to match features or price. The challenge is to uncover a truer differentiation that will resonate more closely with the customer’s desires. And this is where the voice of the customer comes to life and demonstrates its power in marketing planning.

By undertaking the right kind of customer investigation, businesses can begin to discover more emotional routes to the customer. Look at how customers view themselves when they use the product: What image do they project or portray? Do they like what they see? Discovering what appeals to the customer beyond basic product specifications provides tremendous insight.

Another area to explore is a customer’s perceived utility or benefit of using a product. Too often marketers get so wrapped up in describing the product itself that customer benefit is overlooked. One basic means to begin discovery is to simply ask the customer: “What would your life be like if you no longer had access to product X?” Now we can begin to explore the deeper benefit to the customer.

The folks at Street Smart approach these three areas as MIND, HEART and SOUL. In general terms MIND refers to product attributes, HEART to emotional appeal, and SOUL to product use and utility. Many marketers forge ahead with their planning completely aiming at the rational MIND and wonder why campaigns fall flat in a short period of time. In order to find deeper success marketers must tap into the power of the customer’s voice, listen, and begin to understand what motivates purchase behavior. Only by listening to the customer first will a marketer begin to successfully integrate messages that appeal to the MIND, HEART and SOUL.

Ask the customer what’s important instead of guessing what you think they want to hear. What you discover will return huge benefits to your marketing planning process.


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