If you’re having dinner with a friend who is vegetarian, you’re not going to suggest getting steaks. Why? Because it doesn’t make sense to suggest something you know they don’t want. So instead, you suggest a noodle house and end up having a wonderful evening.
Would the night have been ruined if you did suggest steaks? No. But it would have indicated that you either don’t know your friend very well, or you don’t really care about them; neither of which are endearing qualities.
The same relationship principles apply in the world of B2C and B2B marketing. When brands suggest products or services the audience doesn’t want, it’s an indication that the brand doesn’t know them very well. This is either because the brand hasn’t tried to get to know the customer, or they simply don’t care. From the brand’s perspective it may not be that cut-and-dry, but it is to the person receiving the marketing content.
Getting to know your customers is particularly important when looking to engage a new audience. With such highly competitive markets and rising consumer expectations, a good first impression can be the difference between brand loyalty and brand defection. Luckily, the secret to success is fairly straight forward and I’m here to share some of what we’ve learned over the past 35 years of customer relationship building.
Brand strategy concepts like these are usually easier to discuss when they’re put into context, so I’ll use the outdoor recreation industry as an example. I choose this industry because according to Kampgrounds of America, online campsite booking is up 400% compared to summer 2019. Within that huge spike in demand, just over 20% of campers are booking for the first time.
This presents an incredible opportunity for outdoor retailers to capture market share and attract new customers. But they won’t accomplish that goal by offering steaks to vegetarians. So, brands need to understand their audience, get to know their new prospects, and develop a marketing strategy that leverages customer insights for delivering the most relevant brand messaging. Here’s how:
“Getting to know you” Surveys
The more brands learn about the wants, needs, preferences, and purchase decision drivers of newly acquired customers, the better they can convert other prospects currently in the “consideration” phase. Furthermore, by understanding the new customer’s experience, that brand is equipped with insights to improve and personalize future experiences for that customer.
Taking a step back and removing the brand’s own objectives, this is a chance to add value for the customer and offer them a memorable experience. Imagine that person who decides to embark on a new adventure and take the family camping for the first time.
They’re unsure of what equipment they need, what challenges to expect, and wondering if they even belong there in the first place. After making their purchase, they’re approached by the brand not to answer on a scale of one to ten how satisfied they are with the purchase experience; but rather to tell a little about themselves. They’re asked to detail what they’re most excited about, not what they plan to buy next. They’re given the chance to introduce themselves a unique individual who is more than just a financial asset.
They’ll remember how that gesture made them feel long after they forgot about the ease of checkout or product availability. The simple act of getting to know someone is a powerful step in relationship building, yet it’s a step often skipped due to bottom-line tunnel vision. The “Getting to know you” survey is an easy way to make a great first impression and differentiate from the competitors.
Product Usage & Experience
Post-purchase experience surveys are common practice. Brands send automated messages after a purchase is made to learn more about the customer’s purchase experience. Obviously, this is a good practice and provides valuable insight. However, in order to stand out from the crowd we have to do things a little differently.
If a friend of mine went on a camping trip, I’d want to hear stories about where they went and what they did. What’s stopping a brand from approaching their customers the same way? Even when looking at a brand’s bottom line objectives, it’s the customer’s overall camping experience that will determine whether or not they’ll buy more camping products. Regardless of how well the retailer staff or website performed, if the person didn’t like camping they probably won’t be buying products again any time soon. If the brand relies solely on purchase history to determine their marketing messages, they’ll be offering a steak to a vegetarian. That’s not helpful for the customer OR the brand.
Instead, what if a retail brand reached out a few weeks after purchase asking about the trip itself? Within that context there’s room for product-specific questions; like whether or not the backpack they purchased fit all the supplies they needed, or what they cooked on their new portable grill. However the personalized tone and unique approach will feel different than a standard branded product survey. Ultimately, learning more about how the products they purchased fit into the overall experience provides tremendous value for creating marketing content and add-on product recommendations. It also takes the brand-customer relationship beyond one that’s transactional and makes it personal.
Explore Trends & Opportunities
Sometimes it’s beneficial to look beyond the internal environment and explore the great unknown. Who better to act as a guide than the customers you’re hoping to acquire and keep? Forward-thinking and future planning is where opportunities are found, but it’s not always easy to know where to look. By engaging customers, prospects, and/or the general public, brands can get a sense of emerging trends and areas of opportunity they hadn’t previously considered.
An expanding audience and new customers offer a fresh perspective and unique insight. It’s easy to get stuck in the “it’s always been done this way” mentality. In fact, we usually don’t even know we’re there until someone from the outside makes a suggestion that shifts our gaze. So it’s a good idea to be proactive in seeking different vantage points from those outside of our inner circle.
As waves of new customers take interest in outdoor recreation, they will bring with them unique perspectives and ideas that may lead to unforeseen opportunities for retailers. Tapping into this resource requires brands to ask the right people the right questions. Again, people are excited to share their thoughts and ideas because they want to feel involved with the brand development process. Following up with them to share how their feedback was used or applied to specific brand initiatives closes the feedback loop and further builds the relationship.
While the focus in this article was on the outdoor recreation industry, these concepts and principles apply to brands of any size, in any industry. For the past 35 years, we’ve been refining our approach to converting customer feedback into actionable insights. In doing so, we empower our clients to evolve their brand and achieve results that matter.
If you’re in the outdoor recreation industry and want to capitalize on growing consumer interest, let us know. We’re ready to get started.