I was meeting with the marketing committee of a not-for-profit organization on whose board I sit earlier today. We were discussing a major report that we intend to release to the community. The report is on a rather technical subject - river quality - and we talked about crafting frequency asked questions (FAQ) to accompany the report and press release.
This made me think of something that all skilled marketers are able to do. That is, put themselves in the customer's shoes and think and act like the customer. This includes knowing what concerns are on the customers' minds, how they are likely to view and process different topics, where they go to get their information, what their preconceived notions are, who they are inclined to believe and what is most important to them.
So taking the FAQ document that would accompany a river quality report card as an example, here are some of the questions that I would imagine might be asked:
- Does this mean we can swim in the river without worrying?
- What impact will this have on beach openings?
- Can we eat fish that we caught from the river?
- Should we worry if we get a mouth full of water?
- Is the water potable, that is, is it ok for drinking?
- When did you measure the water quality?
- How often do you intend to measure it going forward? How often will we see updated report cards?
- What exactly are you measuring?
- What are you not measuring that we should worry about?
- What is the biggest source of pollution?
- Who is the biggest polluter?
- Is there anything I can do to help clean up the river?
- How long will it be before the river is completely clean again?
I am not going to include the complete list of potential questions. But my point is that a marketer must always try to think like the customer. What is on his or her mind? What is he or she worried about? How will he or she react to this? If you were a water quality engineer or scientist you might have come up with a different set of FAQs, but would they have addressed the community's actual questions and concerns or would they have missed the mark?
I have noticed a similar thing in survey construction. A survey is not constructed with the respondent in mind if the most frequent answer to a list of possible responses is "other (please specify)." It means that the person who supplied the answer options really doesn't understand what is most important to the respondent. Sometimes the person who constructs the survey is so clueless that the list of options does not include anything that the respondent would choose. That becomes problematic because then the respondent has to pick something that he or she would not normally pick just to move ahead in the survey.
As a marketer, you must understand your customer well enough to ask the right questions, create compelling messaging, place the marketing messages in the right media and get the customer to make an actual purchase.
So, the bottom line is that you must think like the customer if you are to be successful as a marketer. And, while you may not be the target customer yourself, you must have done enough research and have enough empathy and insight to be able to walk in the customer's shoes anyway.