How to Discover What Customers Think Without Asking Them

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Here’s something that successful businesses recognize in today’s increasingly noisy world: To earn the attention of potential customers, you must truly understand what they think. This is why
empathy is more important than ever for marketers. Without taking the time to understand what motivates your audience to take action, you run the risk of simply creating noise. 

Many businesses are trying to get inside the minds of potential customers by asking more intentional questions during the sales process. That’s a great first step, but it only provides a small sample size. What happens when you can’t ask every single customer what they think and feel about every little situation surrounding your products and services?

This is where taking time, whether it’s an entire day or a two-hour brainstorming session, to consider how customers think and feel can be incredibly valuable for your team.

5 Questions to Discover How Customers Think Without Asking Them

As you look to put yourself in your customers’ shoes for a day, here are a few questions to unlock what they might be thinking when it comes to your products or services: 

  1. What do your customers say and do? Think about a typical day in the life of your customer. What do they spend their time doing? How do they behave in different settings—with their boss, with coworkers, and with friends and family? These questions help you think about all the different decisions they might have to make in the course of the day.
  2. What do your customers think and feel? Now that you’ve considered their day, it’s time to consider how those activities and decisions make them feel. What are their dreams, worries, and daily emotions? What makes them happy, sad, scared, emotional, and angry?
  3. What do your customers hear? Think about all the various ways your customers gather information. Who do they hear from? What media are they influenced by? What are the primary messages they’re being bombarded with day after day? Knowing this can help you identify how to reach them and rise above the noise. 
  4. What are their biggest challenges every day? What frustrations and stresses do they encounter daily? What risks and threats do they face? Knowing the fears your customers experience allows you to speak into the various ways your brand can help resolve them. 
  5. What opportunities exist if they succeed? All customers have heroes in the stories of their minds—and it’s not your brand. It’s them. What do they need to be successful and achieve their goals? How do they measure success? Knowing what will make them feel like even bigger heroes is a powerful way to capture their attention. 

As you and your team walk through these questions, write down every single answer you think of. Look for patterns. Most importantly, don’t forget to use the answers to these questions whenever you’re considering new products and services, crafting new marketing materials, and so forth. These questions will ensure that your deliverables resonate with your customers.

Frustrated by the Fact that Marketing Is Constantly Evolving?

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When it comes to marketing, the only constant is that it’s an industry that’s always changing. Think about it. Less than a decade ago, businesses were thriving because they were posting on Twitter, getting tons of comments on every blog post, and sending a monthly e-newsletter. Today, those tactics aren’t producing nearly as much engagement. 

As the owner of a marketing agency, I understand why it’s easy to get frustrated by the constantly-evolving nature of marketing. I’ve had dozens of discussions with small business owners over the past seven years who tell me their marketing isn’t working. They express that finding a marketing tactic that works and provides the reach or scalability needed to drive results seems impossible. For small businesses with limited resources and budgets, this can be maddening. For everyone else, it makes business development hard to sustain for an extended amount of time.

4 Principles to Remember as Marketing Continually Evolves

Here are some encouraging reminders I share with business leaders or marketing managers who are frustrated by the fact that nothing seems to be working like it once did: 

  1. Embrace the fact that marketing always changes. The reason marketing seems to be evolving so quickly is because customer behaviors are rapidly changing. Today’s customers have an incredibly finite amount of time and attention to give to something. Rather than getting frustrated by this fact, embrace it. Recognizing we only have a few seconds to capture our audience’s attention opens up creativity to solve this new challenge.
  2. Stop looking for the silver bullet. There isn’t a single marketing tactic that is guaranteed to work without fail for the next five years. Just because your competition is trying something doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Instead, focus on what your customers want. Your customers need solutions to their problems, not more information about your brand.  
  3. Focus on strategy, not tactics. Wondering why your marketing efforts aren’t working like they used to? When most businesses say their marketing strategy isn’t working, what they typically mean is that the tactics aren’t effective. Rather than focusing on tactics, it’s important to recognize the underlying strategies the tactics are built upon—and hold onto those rather than the tactics themselves. 
  4. When all else fails…be human. Certain marketing principles are timeless. Remembering to be human is one of them. What works today—something that has always worked—is grassroots, person-to-person, authentic, transparent actions. Creating personal and meaningful connections with potential customers will always work when it comes to growing your business.

The world of marketing is undergoing a profound evolution. Things that worked yesterday won’t work as well today. But, that’s a good thing because we know there will always be new tactics and strategies we can deploy to appeal to basic human emotions of potential customers.