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Understanding Customers and Learning from…Apple??

Posted on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 by Print This Post Print This Post

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Customers increasingly expect everything online (and everything, really) to “just work.”

Sitting at the latest Search Insider Summit conference in Florida, I realized how many times I’ve heard that in the last year. Customers now expect everything online to simply work, but the expectation is more than mere function. Everything online also needs to be “easy” and “focused on my immediate need/mood” and “tailored to who I am.”

This intuitiveness is the expectation of the coming wave of digital natives. This expectation will influence the work of earlier generations and dethrone, if not outright destroy, companies that don’t build this into their DNA.

The challenge is that the client/agency discussion often leaves something out – the customer. This is what digital marketers can learn from Apple.

Three-Legged Stools:  Working Better than Two Since… Forever

All too often, clients and agencies get so engrossed in the conversation about customers that they forget that it’s the customers that know themselves best. Let’s take a look

  • Clients
  1. Customer Perception: We know the customers best, we talk to them and they buy our goods/services.
  2. Posture: Look at all the things we do!
  3. POV: “Business Unit”
  4. Company Metaphor: Yahoo
  • Agencies
  1. Customer Perception: We know the customers best – we can measure behavior and improve efficiency metrics in how they engage with the goods/services!
  2. Posture: Look at how we are moving the needle.
  3. POV: “Distribution Channel”
  4. Company Metaphor: Google
  • Customers
  1. Customer Perception: We know ourselves best – this is how we want to do it.
  2. Posture: Wouldn’t it be cool if I could do it “this way.”
  3. POV: “What I Want Now”
  4. Company Metaphor: Apple

Don’t miss the boat on all three perspectives…

The Solution – Step Back and Re-Segment, Re-Energize and Re-Focus on Customers and User Intent

I think this is where Apple gets it right. They provide products that customers want, products that solve problems. Here are some ways to frame the dialogue on customers:

  • Thematic Thinking
    • I will break out themes for clients and focus discussion and metrics within the theme.  For example:
      • Theme: Brand Search
      • Intent: People Looking for Company X
      • Best Message: “We are Company X”
      • Messaging Segments That Work: Registered Trademark Symbol, Official Site
      • Keyword Watchlist: Company X, Company X.com, etc.
      • The list goes on…
  • Personas
    • Define a persona for a theme, who is that person, when are they searching, where are they searching, what is compelling on the SERP for those searches, etc.
  • Positioning
    • If you are a marketer who hasn’t read the book Positioning by Trout and Ries, you are doing yourself a disservice.  There are only three positions that matter and the SERP is going to reflect this more and more. They are: Position 1 – market leader (We’re the biggest), Position 2 – often playing off the leader (We’re not the biggest but we try harder), Position 3 – reposition the category (We’re the biggest/best for this subsegment).  Know what position you are targeting within a theme.
  • Cross-Channel Thinking
    • At SIS, Matt Kain referenced the Walk/Sit/Slouch paradigm where the computer is for sitting, the phone for walking, and the ipad targeting a new “slouch” area of the market. Know how customers are using different channels and how that changes the message or use-case. Speak clearly to one.
  • Modes
    • Know what mode customers may be in for specific channels/queries. Speak clearly to one. For example:
      • Browse – Options for a Friday night at home.
      • Research – Which is the best pizza?
      • Purchase – I want to buy a pizza.
      • Feedback – I thought this pizza was great.
      • Share – I want to recommend this pizza.
  • Pointed Questions
    • If intent is unclear, then ask. Customers like this. Search engines are doing more for us – “did you mean…?” but we can do it too. We regularly use SEM creative testing to define intent – asking pointed questions in headlines and measuring results – “Looking for a Plumber?”
  • Strategic Alliances
    • Lori Weiman from the Search Monitor spoke to this again at SIS. Can you partner with a super affiliate for providing research or some other intent bucket in order to represent multiple customer intents in unclear themes?
  • Solutions
    • Ben Hanna spoke to a Current, Better, Winning hierarchy at SIS:
      • Current: Content
      • Better: Interactive Content
      • Winning: Solution
      • Companies should be investing in solutions to specific problems – speak clearly to one.

The Takeaway: Learn from Apple and start paying real attention to customers.

Do the things that work but also start investing in “real testing” in defining your customers and bringing the best content and the best solution to the front of the user experience.

About Mike Jarvinen

Mike is a VP, Marketing Strategy with a performance-driven focus. With nine years of interactive / integrated marketing experience both on the client-side with companies like Disney and the agency-side with The Search Agency, Mike brings account management experience that includes working with Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, and major brands in Finance, Travel, Shopping, and Technology. He draws upon extensive search and online training and is an expert certified with Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions products. He is recognized for skills in training high-impact, performance-based account teams and driving post-sales account growth. Mike is a member of various professional organizations and holds an MBA from the University of Colorado Denver.

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