Seasoned marketing gurus have often pointed out how customer behaviour changes from time to time and category to category. For argument’s sake, readers could play the devil’s advocate and assume that customer behaviour doesn’t change…
For marketers, customer behaviour is how s/he makes all the decisions that result in a purchase.
After having donned the hat of a passionate marketer across categories and sectors for more than a decade – from a large manufacturing conglomerate to the biggest Telco in India and now as part of a leading global healthcare giant – one has realised that customer marketing commandments remain the same and, overall, customers don’t change their behaviour; they merely respond to different motivations at different times.
Marketers are wasting considerable effort and resources in over-segmenting their audiences, based on the conviction that a more customised marketing campaign is more effective. The recent developments in India’s telecom sector are a case in point. Telcos have chosen to move away from 150+ prepaid products to only a handful of prepaid product choices while successfully serving a nation of a billion-plus population with diverse socio-economic backgrounds.
In contemporary times, a marketer’s focus should be about asking how customers are alike – not how they are different. Customers have more in common than one can ever imagine. This paradigm is what one would term the ‘Customer One’ approach.
It’s the same consumer who makes decisions in a peculiar manner about what s/he buys or acts vis-à-vis a product, service, or company – irrespective of the category those goods or services belong to.
Based on one’s understanding and experience across multiple sectors, here are the five commandments of ‘customer one’ marketing:
Think as your customer would
Diving into the mind of your customer is crucial. Marketers are so deeply enmeshed in their brand framework they often forget that they themselves are customers. Sometimes the easiest solution is to mull over what one would do if shopping.
In fact, one is a firm believer that the best competitive intelligence one can obtain is by encouraging employees to act as competitor’s customer. In other words, intentionally try the competitor’s products as a regular customer to see what works and what doesn’t.
Customers prefer feelings and emotions over reason and arguments
Research corroborates the fact that intense emotional experience translates into indelible memories and experiences for customers. As a customer, one might forget the product features and benefits but how a product made one feel good will stay with a person for a long time. The ‘
daag ache hain’ campaign from Surf Excel plays on evoking the right emotions from simple moments in life. The brand evokes the right emotion in its target group by telling them that they need not stop living life to the fullest fearing dirt and grime on clothes. It reinforces the fact that ‘Emotions are stronger than reasons’. Don’t ask customers to change. You adapt!
Customers dislike surprises and uncertainty. As a marketer, one needs to discover ways to reach out to customers, adapting to their preferences.
Indian customers have religiously followed their culture, traditions, and values. As a result, MNCs were forced to adopt an Indian touch to succeed in India. Dominos Paneer Makhni Pizza or McDonalds McSpicy Paneer and more such products from international chains had to Indianise to survive and thrive in India.
Corollary: Customers, who like things just the way they are, happen to be the most loyal ones. Cooling-off periods are a trap. Customers don’t sway.
Research proves cooling-off periods don’t get rid of the inherent biases of customer behaviour. As far as possible, if one has a chance, close the deal now! Customers do not often change their minds. As marketers, one feels if customers are given some cooling off period, there are chances of them swaying. This is a myth.
It all comes down to the good feeling in the customers’ gut. A lot like love.
Irrespective of demographics or attitudes, customers have similar associations about brands. They respond positively to the same set of measures to improve perception. Signals and cues marketers give bypass the practical, doubting brain and build a positive brand connotation at a subconscious level. This is what happens when people say they have a good ‘gut feeling’ about a product, service, or company.
A classic example is how many people think of ‘Tata’ and ‘trust’ in the same breath.
In a nutshell one must not get so trapped in marketing paradigms and brand messaging that one forgets it is people at the end of it that one is dealing with. One just has to make the right moves. As budding marketers, one needs to put a finger on the pulse of customers. Once one comprehends the behaviour of a typical customer in the very beginning of one’s career, it is merely a matter of customizing and personalizing the approach across industries and categories…Mayank Mathur heads the brand, digital, and communications function at a healthcare major.