Our resident rock star, Ted Rubin, on why empathy for your consumer will always result in a better, more effective marketing plan.
It's pretty easy to sit in a room and come up with a flashy marketing plan that's sure to please other marketing experts. That doesn't mean it will be a good marketing plan or that it will be at all relevant to your consumers, but you're certainly free to try the locked room method. Plenty do. The plan often fails; the team repeats the process all over again, and somehow nobody realizes that the key ingredient for success has been missing the whole time.
I’m not talking about data here. It’s easy to get seduced by numbers and graphs and demographics. However, if you want to create effective marketing for your consumers, then you need to walk a mile (or ten) in their shoes.
Look, I understand the appeal of data and analysis. It's an important part of success in most things, marketing included. But it is not the only ingredient to success, and if you rely only on the data then you're going to miss out on the context that gives the data meaning. You may understand what people are doing, but that doesn't mean you know why they're doing it.
Dig deeper, and ask the right questions
The path to purchase is far from just a numbers game. Think about what someone goes through when they are considering the products or services that you have to offer. What would prompt them to need your business in the first place? If you were making a similar purchase, what factors would you consider when evaluating which business to buy from? What would be your deal-breakers and your must-haves? Are you looking to research your options heavily, or is it a purchase where you can go with the most affordable option that meets your needs? How would the real, unavoidable demands of your budget impact your options?
Smart consumers ask themselves plenty of questions before making a purchase, and smart marketers should do the same when laying out a marketing plan. The data will likely have some answers, but there's no way to get a complete picture without considering the needs of consumers in a more direct, personal way.
It’s not just for marketing
How many times have you visited an ecommerce website to make a purchase, only to find a hundred hurdles to clear before you can get what you came for? Slow loading times, buggy user interface, no search feature, unclear page/category choices, poor product descriptions, broken links... The list goes on and on. If you're a consumer and you land at a business like that, you're probably going back to Google to find your next option.
Thing is, poor design choices often feel intuitive for the people who designed them. You know the system and see how it works from the ground up, so naturally consumers will too, right? The truth is that consumers experience your website and marketing from their viewpoint — not from yours. Those two things may line up, but that's much harder to do if you don't understand the real, day-to-day needs of your consumers.
In the right hands, data and experience work together to paint a more complete picture than you'd get from either source individually. That's only possible, however, if you're willing to invest in the ‘experience’ side of the equation, too. Take the time to put yourself in the consumer's shoes, and your marketing will be much better for it.