Three Little Questions – BIG Implications
Good news! According to new research published by McKinsey & Company, consumers are feeling better about their financial situation than they did throughout the 2008-2012 recession. And yet, there is bad news: consumer morale remains challenged, and consumers continue to look for ways to save money. With so many options at their fingertips, your customers have the ability to shop where they want, when they want. What does this mean for you as a merchant? It means that customer loyalty is at risk. Even if it’s only a few dollars, they will continue to be lured away by the deal.
America the frugal: US Consumer Sentiment Survey McKinsey & Company. So, what’s a brand to do? While we cannot change the new consumer paradigm, we can create a tighter bond between our brand and customers. Multiple studies have proven that nearly 90% of consumer behavior is driven by emotions. In fact, Martin Lindstrom, author of Buy-ology, has been able to prove through neuro-marketing studies (fMRI) that often, the consumer does not know the emotion that drives a purchase.
The customer may not understand their decision, but some savvy brands do. And those brands that understand the emotional reason customers do business with them realize exponential growth. These brands create marketing filters, or a language, that ultimately increases the bottom line while creating an increase in brand loyalty.
How can your brand achieve this same magic? By taking an honest look at three questions:
1. Who are you? For many brands, this is a fairly easy question. The answer is simply the products you offer, and how it relates to your competitive niche. It’s not unusual to sell the same items as your closest competitor. As we move into the next phase of this exercise, answering the question “What do you do?” will define what you offer that’s truly different.
2. What do you do? Or, what do you do that is unique, exclusive or differentiated? This requires a closer look at how you do business. If your product line is not exclusive, then do you serve your customer in a unique way? Does your brand have a differentiated personality? This question requires a close look at your competitors, and knowledge of how they do business and what they own in the marketplace. Many brands have a difficult time answering this question and struggle with an over-arching marketing message. The kiss of death is to land on the same three attributes that every third marketer seems to tout: price, quality and service. Hear me loud and clear: these are not differentiating factors – everyone else is saying the exact same thing! Force yourself to dig deeper.
Ideally, what YOU own is one thing; not many things. Consumers do not have the capacity to remember every marketing message you throw their way. However, if you deliver the ONE thing you own, over and over again, the message will stick.
3. Why does it matter? Clearly, this is the hardest of all three questions. While many brands have spent millions of dollars identifying their brand attributes and creating exhaustive brand manuals, few have drilled down to the WHY. Or, what we call the “higher order benefit,” the emotional reason customers do business with you. Let me share a few examples. Disney understands they are not in the business of selling a theme park; they sell “magic.” Starbucks grew into the powerhouse they are today because they understood they weren’t selling gourmet coffee, but the ability to “escape and indulge.” Dove reinvigorated a 60-year brand by selling the concept of “beauty” not just soap. In the spa industry, we once worked with a line of organic massage oils and lotions, called Lotus Touch. For them, it was about being “safe.” Each of these brands has been able to drill down to a core emotion and then weave it throughout their marketing messages. But most importantly, they’ve learned to lead with their WHY.
In reality, your higher order benefit already exists. It’s just a matter of connecting with your customer to discover what it is. A carefully crafted survey will help you drill down and discover their perceptions of your brand. With open-ended questions, you’ll see a re-occurring theme reveal itself. If you have a retail presence, then begin asking your customers why they choose to do business with you. At first, you’ll get the typical “price, quality, service” response, but encourage a deeper conversation and you’ll be surprised at what customers will reveal.
I did not invent this theory, but have seen brands undergo a journey of brand discovery, craft a marketing message around a central idea and then realize an immediate lift in response by as much as 30%! This works. If you are still not a believer, spend 18 minutes with the most watched TedTalk of all time … Simon’s Sinek’s, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” You’ll be inspired.
What do these three questions mean to you? Well, it should change everything about the method in which you do business. First, there must be a consensus within your organization, from the top down, on how to answer those three questions. Second, you must commit to explore every facet of how you do business and how you will prove your higher order benefit in everything you do. Third, you must train your “internal customers,” also known as employees, so they understand why they are coming to work every day. As a result, everything is up for grabs. From how you answer your phone, how you greet customers when they come into your store, how you promote your business, your offers, calls-to-action … every customer touch-point.
It doesn’t matter what you sell or what medium you choose to market your brand, you should be able to achieve the same results above. However, it requires incredible discipline to not only agree on your “one thing” and your “higher order benefit” but the fortitude to stick with it. This is not a one-time exercise but an on-going discipline that continually defines and refines how you do business.