“Love my customers? Some of them are OK, but some of them are real jerks. They’re demanding and nearly impossible to satisfy. The only thing that would truly make them happy if is I gave my product away for free. Of course, then I’d go under in two months, and my business/life would be destroyed–but sometimes it feels like that’s the only thing that will make them happy.”
Hey, I hear you. It’s easy to look at a “they” or a “them” with disdain. It’s easy to distance yourself from a group. It’s easy to take a broad term like “your customers” and have negative feelings toward them. But it’s a lot harder to look at an individual person with disdain, distance, and even negativity. That’s why, at Future Now, we create customer personas. We take broad “groups” and vague terms like “customers” and model them into personas; individuals with whom you can relate, understand, and empathize. Personas are designed to give you deeper insight into your customers. I will argue that the more you know someone, the better your understanding of that person. The more you understand that person, the more likely you are to like or even, yes, love them. (Obviously, there are some exceptions – we don’t recommend serving axe murderers, for instance – but in most cases, I feel this is true)
Let me give you some real life examples.
I was sitting in a group, and there was this guy who I’ve known for a little while. He’s a real SOB. He was talking about an argument he had with his neighbor. This guy actually broke down into tears because he really likes this neighbor, and he didn’t want to alienate him. He just lost his temper. And he was lost because he didn’t know how to apologize to this person and try to repair the damage.
I never liked this guy much. But after seeing a different side of him, after getting a better understanding of him–while I wouldn’t say I love him–I certainly like him a lot more.
If I were a company selling an anger management course, it would be all too easy to say “Anger management candidates are control freaks who can’t manage their temper.” But if I had a better understanding of my customers, if I liked them–loved them, even–I could approach it differently. With a certain amount of empathy, I’d be able to a say things like, “Anger management candidates are in pain. They cause damage and they don’t know how to repair it. And, all too often, they alienate the people they love.”
Do you think with this new insight, I could create more effective messaging? Do you think I could do a better job of selling my product?
Here’s another example. I don’t have any tattoos. I don’t really have anything against them, but I never understood why someone would want one. But I wrote a blog post about the rise of Soccer Moms getting tattoos. I got a huge response from women who shared with me why they’d gotten tattoos. One in particular was a mother, a teacher, a woman who spent her life taking care of people and leading a “straight-and-narrow” life. She wanted a way to express herself; to feel like she was still sexy and a little daring. She got a tattoo but wouldn’t tell anyone about it except her husband. He loved it! He felt like his wife had a “bad girl” side. If I had to create messaging for a tattoo parlor, instead of writing about clean needles and master artists, I could write messaging that really spoke to the deeper reason why people get tattoos. Now I have a newfound respect for people with tattoos. I understand them better. I like them better. I can do a better job of creating persuasive messages.
Stop thinking of your customers as “they” and “them”–or as being abstract in any way. Start thinking of customers as real people.
It’s hard to build a relationship with someone you don’t like. Love is a two-way street. You want your customers to love your brand, right? Well, the first step to doing that is to understand them.
What are you doing to better understand your customers?