What Do You REALLY Know About Your Customers?

During the Roadshow, when discussing behaviors and beliefs that keep MSPs small, struggling and broke, I had several people approach me privately, and one publicly during a session, to ask, “How is it you managed to describe me/my thoughts perfectly during your talk today?” Another said, “I didn’t realize I was coming to a seminar customized purely for me.”

This is not an uncommon occurrence. On surveys, new clients often copy and paste part of the marketing material we sent them, stating that as the reason they bought – it’s never the “stuff” we sell but the emotional factors around their personal struggles and feelings of inadequacy, frustration, guilt and shame for failing to be where they think they ought to be.

If you want to be a truly effective marketer, you have to understand your client so well that you know the “conversation going on in their mind” that is so personal they won’t utter it to anyone. I’m often asked by clients how to gain that level of intelligence on their clients, and the answer isn’t a simple or easy one.

You can’t just survey people. All consumer polls, surveys and research are deeply flawed for several reasons. The first is that many people don’t understand the questions asked because they are barely paying attention and give abrupt, short answers. They also won’t get into the real emotional drivers upon which they base their decisions because that’s not how they consciously communicate.

One of the REAL ways women choose medical doctors for certain conditions is based on the age of the doc. They don’t want to go to a younger male doctor because they feel intimidated, ashamed and deeply embarrassed about their bodies. They want an older woman closer to their age. Most men won’t go to a young woman doctor (or a really young male doc) for erectile dysfunction for the same reasons. They want to go to a doc who is a peer in their age group – but if you poll them on why they went to the doctor they did, they’ll give more logical justifications, such as “They came referred” or “They had great reviews.” That might all be true and have contributed to their decision, but it’s not the exclusive reason they chose that doc, and it’s not the MOST important factor.

Another problem with consumer research and surveys is that most people don’t consciously know they are making these decisions. They feel pulled to buy but don’t analyze their choices. That’s why I side with Steve Jobs on the principle that it’s not your customer’s job to articulate what they want: that’s up to US to figure out. That’s where the big money is made – not chasing customers’ whims and surface requests, but knowing them so well that you already know what they’ll buy, what they want, what will get them excited, without them having to spell it out.

A crude example: most people don’t want to ask for what they want when making love because it kills the magic of the moment. No one wants to be barking instructions at a lover in the heat of passion, mapping out a play-by-play of what turns their crank and telling the lover to stop doing what they’re doing. The best lovers seem to anticipate what their partner wants. Women get criticized for not directly telling their spouses what they want. Many women feel that if you’re so dense that you can’t figure out some of the most obvious things, you’re not paying attention (true, most of the time). They also feel embarrassed to ask.

Same goes with a customer. Some feel embarrassed to ask for what they want because they don’t want to appear to be a nit-picky complainer. Others won’t articulate what they want because they feel the failings of your service are SO OBVIOUS that if you can’t see how dysfunctional it is, there’s no point in wasting their breath to tell you. Others just don’t know what they want, but they’re experts on what they DON’T want. Some are just too busy to think about it – that’s why they hired you. They want you to anticipate their needs.

So, the only way you can truly understand your customers is by first studying emotional intelligence, persuasion and human behavior so you have a baseline understanding of human motivations. Next, you have to spend time with your clients, listening to them, understanding them and going deep into the whys of what they do, how they run their business, how they make decisions, their hierarchy of value and their unspoken desires – the last being the hardest because you have to really pay attention and set aside YOUR values, YOUR thoughts, YOUR beliefs and be fully focused on them, no matter how irrational their decisions are. This takes practice and a willingness to master influence and persuasion. A practical recommendation is to watch and listen to my good friend Chris Voss, author of Never Split The Difference.

While marketers know that the ultimate test of any idea, promotion, price point, product, service, etc., is to TEST, we aren’t doing blind speculation. We’ve done the work in understanding our clients on a deep level and can trust our gut to be right more than wrong – and that’s a huge advantage in the marketplace, where most are stuck on the “stuff” they sell and surface-level benefits.

Want to see Chris Voss in action talking about how to deeply understand your clients and influence their decisions in a non-salesy, non-manipulative way? Go to www.MSPsuccessMagazine.com/voss.

Do you want more leads, more clients, more profits now but don’t know where to start? Click here and watch a quick video about the three biggest problems IT Service Businesses face and how to solve them.