If you’ve turned on your TV in the last few years, chances are you’ve seen one of the many TD Ameritrade commercials featuring a bearded, bespectacled “financial advisor” talking to couples and individuals of varying ages about their life goals. They speak longingly of their desires to buy a home, save for their kids’ college tuition, or retire comfortably. The advisor listens intently, elicits additional details, then tells them how TD Ameritrade can help them achieve their goals.
Turn the time machine back a few years, flip on the TV, and you’ll be deluged with images of young adults energetically participating in extreme sports, interspersed with shots of them chugging Mountain Dew. The commercials were loud, flashy, and overwhelmingly effective.
At first blush, you may think these two vastly disparate marketing campaigns have nothing in common. While they are drastically different in tone and imagery, they share one critically important component – they were developed around each company’s thorough understanding of their customers’ needs, desires, and expectations. Rather than projecting a brand identity onto their customers, they let their customers define the brand. They are taking an outside-in approach.
Savvy branding is all about getting inside the customer’s head. What do they think? What do they want? What do they need? What’s important to them? How do they behave? With that information in-hand, you will be able to determine how your product or service can play a meaningful role in their lives and tailor your marketing messages and imagery accordingly.
There are two primary means of gaining this critical insight:
- Data: The simplest, yet most effective way to find out what someone thinks or feels is perhaps the oldest – ask them. Whether through formal focus groups or informal conversations in the field, a wealth of invaluable data can be gathered simply by engaging current and potential customers in discussion. Much can also be gained by monitoring inbound customer service or sales calls. People are typically brutally honest in such exchanges, providing extremely helpful input. Other approaches, such as quantitative studies and observing customers through ethnography, also are immensely helpful means of acquiring data.
- Customer Journey Maps: Defined as a “visual representation of every experience your customers have with you,” customer journey maps are emerging as a key tool for organizations seeking to strengthen their brand. Customer journey mapping enables companies to step into their customer’s shoes and see the business from their perspective. This allows the company to acquire insight into customer pain points, identify how they can improve the customer experience, and determine what it will take for current and prospective customers to complete a purchase. Those insights are then compiled into a visualization that can be used to focus marketing initiatives on the thoughts, actions, and emotions of customers.
As you look to shape your brand in 2020, make sure you are taking an inside-out approach to shaping your identity and messaging. Remember, marketing is all about communicating how your product or service will respond to customers’ needs or wants, so take the time to gain a thorough understanding of your customers. Get inside their heads. Only then will you be able to deliver on their expectations.