Keeping it Real, Part II: Get "Real Life" Market Understanding.

Brett Welch | BC - Monday, August 18, 2008
Every marketer understands their target market, but how intimately you understand them varies. Getting involved with customer support teaches you a lot about your target market, and lets you intimately understand their needs, wants and motivations.

You'll learn not only what they want to use your product or service for, but why they want to use it. You'll learn the language they use to describe it and how they see it. There is no better way to hold a mirror up to your company than to talk to your customers about their experiences with your product.

Take Carol, for example. Carol is a customer of ours that I've helped on a few occasions with technical support. And she's taught me a lot about our market - while some of it isn't news, it's confirmation that our approach is correct. For example, here's a few things I know because of my support interactions with her:
  • She needs support. Free technical support and the ability to talk to us during our support Q&A webinars is a big reason that she loves us.
  • She loves to learn. She's constantly exploring and learning more about functions in the system she could use, and she really appreciates our business advice (not just tech advice). This has influenced our blog's direction and our technical documentation's direction to include a little background, too.
  • She doesn't know what a CMS (Content Management System) is. She just works on her website. This isn't a surprise and we don't use that acronym ourselves, but it's a good example of how you can glean knowledge of how customers talk and understand your product.
These traits are common to a large chunk of our market, and there are many more. We've got several customers that we have interacted with over time, and they've become archetypes of our target market.

So after all your effort doing support and customer service, let's say you've gained a deeper understanding of your product and your target market. Now we can put that to work in our marketing messages.

Creating a More Authentic Message.

After my experience with customer support, I've definitely gained a great deal of understanding about our product and our customers, and I would expect that most marketers would find the same thing. Doing support at GoodBarry, I can say that I have:
  • Better understanding about which features our customers use the most
  • Greater appreciation of the areas of the system are easiest to use and which are harder.
  • Knowledge of the strengths of our products, according to the customer
  • Better understanding of what motivates and excites customers
Now your product or support may be different to GoodBarry's, but I would bet that similar benefits would be gained anywhere.

To put it simply: I can see the product in it's true form, as it really is - not in an academic light. This then feeds directly into our marketing messages, making them far more authentic for our audience.

So how can you create a more authentic message?  By applying those lessons you've learned from your time with your customers. By using that authentic experience and true understanding you gain from dealing with customers after they've purchased, you can create marketing messages that:
  • Set the right expectations - just as my laptop technician did.
  • Communicate the most attractive benefits of the product - as Carol has shown us
  • Better motivate your prospects to buy - by using the language the customer uses and the benefits they find most attractive in real-life usage.
And most importantly, these marketing messages are true and authentic - so they don't disappoint.

Word of Mouth Marketing That Sticks and Stays.

The best thing about authentic messages: customers repeat them. If they don't agree with your message they'll make up their own, which may or may not be favorable to you. But if they do agree with you, they'll just repeat your message. It's easier that way!

Real marketing messages that aren't mere puffery and positioning but true representations of the benefits of your product spread smoothly and are accepted easily. Authentic marketing messages are a big part in successful word of mouth marketing.

Some Caveats and a Final Word

Maybe you're involved in customer service every day, and if so that's great. My primary role is as a marketer, but I'm also involved in support and training at GoodBarry. And I'm confident that this has helped improve our product and hone our messages.

Of course, not everyone can do support or customer service. Technical support in some organizations requires some serious knowledge that marketers might not have. But what you can do is sit next to them, listen to their customer calls or read their support tickets. Maybe you can pull the support team into your next marketing meeting and see what they think of your ideas.

Traditionally, marketers have worked with sales and legal departments, but the customer service team is too often ignored. These guys are at the forefront of dealing with your happiest and unhappiest customers, they know your product inside out and can tell you in five minutes the best and worst things about your service.

My key point is that as marketers, you should engage and understand the customer service side of your business. Talk to them, sit next to them, try doing their job for a day or two.

Trust me, it's worth it.