Several years ago, we decided to add a second pet to our family. My husband was vying for a hunting dog – one, he said, that would provide a little more value than our current pet – the fluffy white dog that sat on our laps most of the time. I caved, and we connected with a breeder of Brittany Spaniels. Beautiful and sleek, these dogs are known for their ability to point and retrieve, and when trained right, can become faithful hunting dogs.
That’s where we went wrong. Instead of training her, she trained us.
Our lackluster attempts to get her professionally trained as an obedient hunting dog turned her into something quite the opposite. This dog, Samantha, a.k.a. “Sami”, has no idea that her main purpose in life is to point and fetch. Granted, she’ll do it every once in a while out of pure instinct, but most of the time you’ll find her acting like a furry human with paws and a tail. She often greets our son who comes home from college with a big “smile”, will curl up in a ball by my feet when I’m working on the computer, or rests her head in our laps when we’re watching a movie. She’ll look up at you with those beautiful, sweet eyes as if to say, “I could have been a noble and faithful hunting dog, but I trained you well. Now I’m just part of the family.”
While I have no problem with the way our dog coexists with our family, it got me thinking about how we as marketers need to pay attention to the ways our prospects and clients are “training” us. Working in the marketing discipline for over 20 years, I think about this a lot in different contexts, including how customers’ buying habits are affected by the messages we post, tweet, and otherwise announce, what keeps them coming back – and what pushes them away.
Our customers and prospects train us every day, and paying attention to how they want to be interacted with could mean the difference between keeping a customer and losing them.
That’s when implementing a sound communications strategy comes into play. Here are a few things to consider when determining and executing your company’s communication plan:
What is your company’s mission and vision? If you know it and understand it, and your employees know and exemplify it, your prospects and customers will be clear about who you are and what you stand for. If you’re not, your message becomes confusing and irrelevant.
How does your target audience get its information? If you are tweeting and posting on Facebook, and your target audience is clicking on Web ads and responding to email campaigns, you’ve missed the boat. Ask current customers and desired prospects how they make buying decisions – and then communicate in a way that mirrors those patterns. Also, think about how your current clients initially got connected with you and consider building out programs that allow new prospects to follow that same path.
What resonates with your audience? The only way you can know the answer to this question is by measuring results. Looking at click-through rates on email campaigns, extrapolating a customer’s likes and dislikes based on buying patterns and asking for feedback are ways to get a handle on a prospect’s buying preferences.
Our customers and prospects show us how to interact with them every day. Let’s pay attention! If your prospect prefers email or is an avid Twitter follower, or buys only when there’s a full moon, tailor your communications model to fit their patterns and habits. Then, you, too, will be fully trained to meet your customers where they are, and wildly successful for having done so!