How answering a single question can help you create a more compassionate customer profile, leading to better brand trust, boosted brand loyalty and repeat sales.
Problems with profiles
If you’re selling stuff to people, you need a customer profile.
In the best customer profiles, you’ll have all the usual demographic information – like age, gender, demographic classification, location – combined with considered information like psychographic data; for example, what their lifestyle is like and what their buying behaviour is like.
(Two of my Need to Know Big Issues for Fashion in 2016 relate to customer profiles and both are going to require anyone selling stuff to have a more nuanced, compassionate customer profile than ever before.)
The problem is even a good marketer with a good customer profile can miss out on opportunities to build brand trust, boost customer loyalty and gain repeat sales. That’s because they miss out on compassion when they create their customer profile.
The key question
I think there’s one important answer you can add to a good customer profile to make it more compassionate and take it to the next level. And this next-level customer profile will, ultimately, help you understand and provide for your customers much more effectively – whether you’re selling shoes or satellite TVs – which in turn boosts brand loyalty.
This is the one important question you need to answer:
What are they afraid of?
That’s it. You can make a good customer profile compassionate and next-level – and subsequently your marketing and content and everything else provided for that customer – by articulating what they are afraid of.
Hey, you with the weakness!
But if it’s that simple, why have I seen lots of customer profiles that don’t include it?
I think the reason marketers don’t always articulate what their customers are afraid of is because it seems mean.
It’s like pointing out someone’s weakness: “Hey you! You with the gut-wrenchingly low self-esteem!” or “Hi! I see you have a terrible problem with accepting compliments” or “Lovely to meet you and your bundle of neuroses about authority figures”.
It’s like pointing out someone’s weakness and then sticking the knife right in. And some advertising and marketing is like that. Some marketing plays on our fears of not being cool, or sexy, or loved, by making us feel negative about ourselves and our current situation. I’m not down with that.
I am down with identifying fears – and conquering them.
If you can articulate what your customer is afraid of, you can give them products, services and marketing which help them not be afraid of it. And if they’re not afraid, customers are more likely to trust you, stick with you, and buy from you. Compassion boosts brand loyalty.
More compassionate marketing
Some people might argue that the old style of marketing I’ve described is conquering customers’ fears: “Hey! You’re worried about being uncool. Buy this pair of sneakers and you will be cool (until next season)”. Problem solved!
But a more connected, more compassionate marketing strategy that boosts loyalty would be: “Hey! You’re worried about being uncool. You’re not, you know. You are cool. Have you seen these sneakers?”
In the first example the equation is:
[fear] + [my product] =
[temporary interest] + [temporary sale]
In the connected and compassionate example, the equation becomes:
[fear] + [conquering fear] =
[trust] = [loyalty] + [repeat sales]
Proving you understand your customer and can help them conquer a fear leads to trust. Trust leads to loyalty, and to repeat sales.
Case study: ASOS
A brand I think does this well is ASOS. They provide their customers with content, marketing and advertising which conquers their fears and boosts loyalty.
On a very simple, psychological level, the ASOS customer is afraid of:
- Being uncool
- Not knowing what’s cool
- Looking stupid, even if they wear something cool
ASOS conquers these fears with a range of strategies and tactics. They make sure their customers feel cool by featuring them on their website through As Seen On Me, they talk to them regularly on social media and use models across their marketing who look like their (teen) customers – different ethnicities and sizes, with piercings, braces and tattoos.
ASOS makes sure their customers know what’s cool by consistently talking about trends on their blog, on their website, on their social media and in their very good print magazine. They also interview cutting-edge young celebrities and early-career creatives, and show how catwalk and street style trends translate to real life wardrobes.
Finally, they make sure their customers don’t look stupid, even if they wear something trendy, through celebrating their customers (using similar strategies to ‘making them feel cool’) and providing them with free, tailored styling advice via Twitter. This advice comes from a range of different stylists, making sure each of their customers has someone whose aesthetic they identify with.
Do ASOS tell their customers their clothes will make them cool? No. They conquer their customers’ fears about coolness, educate them, support them – and then sell them some clothes.
It’s not mean to articulate what your customer is afraid of. It is mean to manipulate that for profit without giving them anything truly valuable in return. Marketing is about selling, but you don’t have to be a dick to do it.
How to answer that question
So you’re convinced that identifying your customer’s fears will take your customer profile to the next level, and convinced that being able to conquer those fears will increase trust, boost loyalty and repeat sales.
That’s the easy part. The hard part is working out what your customer is afraid of.
(I also think that’s another reason people don’t do it – because it’s hard and requires skills which lots of us don’t take the time to cultivate).
No-one wants to talk about fear. Focus groups and surveys might not bring up what your customers are truly afraid of, because it might be deeply hidden or they might be ashamed to express it.
So the first way to work out what your customer is afraid of is to do this:
Stop thinking like a marketer, and start thinking like your customer. And not just in relation to your brand, but to everything. Really try to feel what they feel. Difficult? Hell, yes. But achievable.
Where to start
You can start to develop your empathy by using your imagination. As children, it’s easy to pretend to be other people (or a lampshade). As we get older, it gets harder; our brains are busy enough without holidaying in someone else’s mind. But empathy is such an important skill to cultivate and it will dramatically change how you provide for your customers.
Use empathy and imagination before customer focus groups or surveys to pinpoint ‘areas of fear’; you’ll get better results, as it’s easier to share vulnerabilities when the other person already gets it.
Here are 16 questions to help you find out what your customers are afraid of and take your customer profile to the next level.
- There’s a crisis at work. What does your customer do?
- They make a big mistake. How do they feel?
- What’s the worst thing their friend could say to them?
- What are they most scared of losing?
- How would they react in an emergency?
- What do they miss?
- Which places do they avoid?
- What are their nervous habits?
- How do they deal with money?
- How do they feel about shopping for themselves?
- What’s the biggest compliment you could give them?
- What don’t they look at in the mirror?
- When do they cry? Why?
- What item would make them most upset if they lost it?
- They fall over in public. What do they do?
- What negative self-talk do they use?
Here’s a thing: those questions make me feel seriously uncomfortable. They’re emotional, invasive and intimate. They’re the questions of a therapist, not a marketer. They’re intense.
And the answers to them will absolutely help you articulate what your customer is afraid of, in turn giving you an opportunity to develop brand trust, boost loyalty and gain repeat sales. So feel the fear and answer them anyway!
Building trust and loyalty
Once you have these answers, you can extrapolate what your customer is most afraid of, and articulate it in relation to your brand. Are they scared of losing touch? Of feeling stupid? Of someone finding out they don’t know what they’re doing? Of prioritising work over kids?
Your customer profile, with this key bit of information, will instantly become richer and more compassionate. You can then start to work out ways to conquer their fears using creative, empathic and imaginative tactics. And in turn, your customers will start to trust you. You’ll boost brand loyalty. You’ll gain repeat sales.
All from one simple question: What are they afraid of?
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Thanks for reading.
Photographs: Bird in the Hand by Glenn Euloth | Visiting Bird by Jim Girardi | chickadee ready for a snack by Shandi-lee Cox | All via Creative Commons | ASOS screenshots and image from www.asos.com