“There may be customers without brands, but there are NO brands without customers!”
I am often quoted as saying this and yet I still find most companies spend more time thinking about their brands than their customers, which is alarming to say the least! And you?
Last week I spoke about identifying the exact category in which you are competing. If you missed it, then I suggest you read “You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are!” before continuing. You will never be successful if you don’t understand the category people put you in and the competitors they compare you to.
In the post, I explain that we often work with a category definition that is based upon industry norms rather than that of our customers. For instance you might segment by price or demographic groups, whereas your customers group brands by flavour or packaging.
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Understand how customers see the category and its sub-segments, can make a huge difference to your success in satisfying your own target customers.
This week I want to continue the theme of taking the customers’ perspective by speaking about our own business objectives. You know, the topics that make up our business and marketing plans with such lofty ambitions as:
- Grow our market share to X%
- Become the category captain/leader in Retailer Z
- Launch three new brand variants
All of these may be valid business objectives, but they are not customer focussed. They start from the business perspective.
Adopting a customer-first strategy means turning business objectives into customer aims, by taking what is sometimes referred to as a bottom-up, rather than a top-down approach.
Here are some questions to help you identify your customers’ aim, their attitudes and behaviours that you are trying to influence:
1. Who are you targeting?
Every brand has a target audience. This is a sub-segment of all category users. Yes you do need to segment users and target the most relevant and most profitable group of them for your brand, and then ignore the rest. If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!
“If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!”
2. Why are they currently using your competitor’s brand?
In order to attract your competitors’ customers you need to understand their motives, why they are preferring the competitive brand to your offer. This information can come from many sources, such as market research, social media, or care centre contacts.
3. What reason might make them consider switching?
If you are to appeal to your competitors’ customers then you must be able to satisfy them at least as well, and ideally better than does their current brand. What do you know about the criticisms customers have of the brand? What benefits do you offer and they don’t, or only partially? Could these be appealing to some of their customers?
4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn’t before?
Do you have benefits that you have never highlighted in the past? Have you improved your product or service to now make it a better option? The reasons for switching must be both obvious and appealing in order to attract new customers to your brand.
Answering these four questions will enable you to turn a business objective into a customer aim. You now have all the information you need in order to be able to attract some, if not all, of your competitors’ customers.
Let’s now look at a (necessarily) simple example.
Business Objective: Grow our market share
This is probably one of the most common business objectives I have come across. Is it yours too?
In order to grow market share, we first need to answer the four questions mentioned above, and turn the business objective into a customer aim:
1. Who are you targeting? Suppose you sell a carbonated soft drink. At first, you may think you are selling to all soft drink consumers. However, from your Usage & Awareness data (or observation at retail) you know you are attracting 18-35 year old men, who live in main urban areas of your region. You also know that there are two competitor brands who attract the same consumer group, Brands X and Y. Brand X is the same price as your brand and is sold in similar can packaging. Brand Y however is higher priced and sold in glass bottles.
2. Why are they currently using your competitor’s brand? From your brand image study, communications analysis or in-store interviews, you know who the consumers of Brand X and Y are. Hopefully you also know why they are using that brand rather than yours.
Do you have any of the benefits for which they are searching? If so, then you may be able to appeal to them. If not, then they are certainly not the best source of potential new customers for your brand.
For this example we will assume that consumers like Brand X because it is sweet and has small bubbles, whereas Brand Y is less sweet and is very fizzy.
3. What reason might make them consider switching? Consumers of Brand X are sensitive to fashion and the latest trends. Brand Y is a traditional brand that has been around for decades. Brand X was launched in the last five years and its can is bright, modern and trendy looking.
4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn’t before? You launched a new campaign that went viral on social media. Everyone if talking about it and it has positively impacted your brand’s image. Whereas you used to be seen as a cheaper version of Brand Y, you have revitalised your brand’s image and are now perceived as much trendier.
Customer Aim: Attract consumers from Brand X who are looking for a trendy, carbonated soft drink that comes in a can and is affordably priced.
As you can see from this objective, it is far more focused and is now based upon your potential customers’ aim. This makes it both more actionable and easier to implement.
I hope you found this exercise useful and will try it yourself in your next marketing or business plans. If you do, then do let me know how it goes. You can email me or simply add a comment below and share your experiences.
Your plan may say that you want to grow your business, but in reality this objective is ongoing. Every year you are usually looking to grow your brand – unless of course you are “milking” an older brand as you allow it to die off.
In order to grow, you need to both maintain your current customer base, as well as attract new ones. It is well documented that it costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep one.
And yet most organisations continue to spend more on acquisition than retention. To see the latest numbers on this, I suggest you check out this awesome infographic by Invesp that was recently shared by Neil Davey on MyCustomer.
According to Gartner’s latest CMO Survey US CMOs continue to find more success with customer acquisition than they do with retention. They reported a 3.1% year-over-year increase in customer acquisition performance versus a 1.9% increase in customer retention performance.
The explanation could be that they always have growing market share as a company objective and think that they therefore need to invest more. Or perhaps it’s because they take the time to attract new customers, but then don’t invest to follow them over time, in order to identify their changing needs and desires.
While I agree both are important, with loyalty levels decreasing, organisations must invest more in retention than acquisition, at least in my opinion. What do you think?
Growing market share can only come from attracting more customers, getting your current customers to buy more, or getting your customers to spend more. It’s time you considered investing (equally?) in all three areas.
Of course, you can also grow market share by maintaining your customers in a declining category, but that needs a totally different approach and more pertinent questions. If you’re interested, then I’ll happily cover this in a future post. Just let me know.