Know Thy Customer: A Game Of Growth (Chapter 2)

Vineet Karhail

Last Updated: July 3, 2020

Knowing your customer is the key to winning the game of growth. Understanding your market and letting that guide your marketing campaigns can give you an edge over your competitors.

In traditional marketing, there were lesser resources to understand the market and customers. It used to be about broadcasting a message after establishing premises about the market based on a little market research.

Digital marketing has changed all of that and it has changed the relationship between the customers and the businesses. The cost of change in traditional marketing was very high, but in digital marketing it is next to nothing.

Today, we have more data about our customers than we could imagine, and that data can provide a lot more information about our customers than you can possibly analyse.

🛡️ You are reading “Know Thy Customer: A Game of Growth (Chapter 2)” – a series of articles on growth marketing. To read the first article, click here 👉 Fundamentals of Growth Marketing: A Game of Growth (Chapter 1)

In this article, you are going to learn about how important it is to know your customers well, and how you can do that. You need to know about your customers persona more than just their preferences, and events they visit, blogs they read, etc. What questions are important to ask your customers, and what tools should you be using?

The series, A Game of Growth, is inspired by CXL Institute’s Minidegree on Growth Marketing.

Why you need to know your customers well

In real life, it is really hard to convince customers if you don’t know them. If you want people to take the actions you want, persuade them to do something, then you really need to know them well.

One of the common mistakes marketers make is to build their customer persona once, and never question it. Customer persona shouldn’t be a static document that you produce and let it sit in a drawer. In today’s world, consumer preferences are always changing, and it is important to be updated with the customer behavior. 

No customers will just buy anything the first time they know about you. Much like dating, they go through a process of learning about your existence, getting to know you better, evaluating you and your products, and then making a decision after several meetings (or touchpoints). 

They do not just buy anything, they go through the buying journey and you need to understand that journey. In the beginning, their interaction with you might be on a Facebook ad, but later on, they might download an ebook from your website. The interaction then moves on to the email. They might need to be convinced about your services, or price which you’ll discover as you engage with them.

There are so many touchpoints with the customers, that it is difficult to stay on top of your game. Hence, there is even more reason to understand your customers’ journey.

How to know your customers better

Customer Persona

A customer persona is a detailed description of your real customer with all of their attributes, behaviour, interests and likes/dislikes.

Once you know your customers well through these customer persona, you will be able to understand how to best reach them, where to reach them and what message will attract them to your offer.

However, there is one problem with the customer personas and it’s that they are snapshots in time, and are not dynamic. A customer persona covers information like demographics, likings, influencers they follow, etc. at a particular time.

Whatever you uncover in a customer persona might not hold true a year later, hence they should be revised from time to time.

Here’s an example of a Customer Persona:

customer persona

An example of a customer persona we built for a client. All confidential information has been hidden.

Empathy Map

Another way to find more information about your customers is to build an Empathy Map. An empathy map digs deeper into what your user sees, what they hear, what they think and feel, and what they say and do.

empathy map to know your customer better

Empathy map is a quick and easy way to illustrate user behavior, and sets the assumptions right across the team.

Here’s an example of Empathy Map for a user who wants to book a holiday:

Say and Do

  • Weighs in several websites and packages before I make a decision
  • Reads reviews and testimonials of other travelers

See

  • Flight tickets to overseas destinations are very expensive but hotel prices are reasonable
  • A particular holiday resort in Indonesia has everything he wants, but I don’t know much about Indonesia. 

Hear

  • Heard that Sri Lanka is a trendy new destination among US travellers, and 2 of my friends went there last year.
  • It’s better to take a direct flight than to break the journey in several parts

Think and Feel

  • There’s too much info out there and finding the right information is very time consuming
  • Likes to have a guide who can accompany them during sightseeing visits 

This is the empathy map for a user who is in the early stage of booking a holiday, and has a lot of varied behaviors.

With more holiday research in and a few days later, this behavior will change completely. The user will be closer to booking a holiday, and how they feel, what they say and do, what they see will change.

Maybe, they will feel safer to book a trip to Indonesia as they learn more about that country. They might find it enjoyable to seek information about Indonesia, and narrowed down to the website where they will book the package. They no longer need to read the reviews of other travelers, but want to talk to the hotel staff to plan an itinerary for their first few days.

Another reminder that both customer persona and empathy maps are just snapshots in time. 

Customer Journey

As we saw in previous sections, the behaviors of customers change as they move from the early stage to the late stage of their purchase.

Customer Journey uncovers the path customers take from knowing about your product to buying it, and how they feel during the journey, what information do they want to know at that stage in the journey, and how can we reach them. 

A customer journey mapping is the visualization of the journey from beginning to end. Of course, not all customers will find out about your product from the same channel. They won’t have the same needs and questions in the beginning. They won’t need the same amount of information as well to make a purchase decision.

A customer journey is not 100% accurate, but it’s a simplified version of how different users interact with your company.

A customer journey map has two main components:

  • Steps in the journey (in columns)
  • Customer information you want to gather at each step of the journey (in rows)

Customer journey steps

For an eCommerce store, steps in customer journey might look like this:

Realizing what you need > Researching for the right product > Buying the product > Getting the product delivered > After-sale support or Return process

For a B2B SaaS company, it might be completely different:

Realizing what you need > Researching for the right product > Trying the product for free for 14 day > Buying the lowest plan with one feature > Upgrading the product to more features

Customer information you want to gather

For each step, you want to gather crucial information that will help you design your campaigns, and how to reach out to the customers. 

Task: What tasks do they want to accomplish at this stage?

Questions: What questions do they have at this stage?

Touchpoints: What touchpoints do they encounter with your brand? Are they interacting with you on Facebook ad, email, website or any offline touchpoint like TV ad or events?

Emotions: What emotions are they going through?

Objections: Do they have any objections that you should answer at this stage?

Influences: Are there any influences that impact the decision making?

Weaknesses: Are there any weaknesses in your product at this stage of buying process?

know your customer journey map

A customer journey mapping also helps you understand how to manage your resources and budget. For example, if you’re planning to run a new campaign, you can ask yourself where the biggest weaknesses lie in your customer’s journey. You can focus your budget and resources on that stage first.

Where to find customer information?

A good place to start finding information about customers is to look inside your company resources.

Sales

Sales team is the right start to know your customers. They are in touch with customers every day. Talk to them about the objections they face from customers for not buying. How do they motivate customers to buy? What offers worked in the past? 

Testimonials

You’ve got testimonials and product reviews from your customers, in which they often talk about their challenges and how your product or service solved them.

They tell you their motivation and reasons to buy your product. Did they try any other competitor’s product before buying yours? You can look at your competitors’ testimonials and reviews to gain the same information, and know your customers better.

Customer Support

Talk to your customer support team, who solve your customers’ problems everyday. Ask them about the commonly asked questions and problems by customers, what frustrates them. Answer these questions upfront in the sales process, and you can reduce the sales cycle significantly.

Social Media Manager

Like sales and customer support teams, your social media managers interact with the customers day in day out. They already know your customers well, how they look, and what they share on their social media profiles, what do they like or dislike about your product, what are the things that are important to your users. 

They know what problems frustrate them enough to share them with the whole world. You can look into their profiles (in a non-stalking way!), who they talk to you, who they follow, what they are interested in.

Data and Analytics

These are just some of the starting points. But if you really want to dig deeper into finding more about your customers, there’s a sea of data that your data team has. 

Most companies do not make use of their data to build customer profiles or to evaluate customer journeys. If you do it, you will be really surprised how much you can know about your customers from data. I’ll just warn you that data tends to focus on users’ behaviours and we need to look for their motivations.

Use Google Analytics to find the most popular pages on your site, what CTAs get the most conversions, what type of content resonates the most with your customers.

You can use session recorder tools like Hotjar to understand what users are doing on your website, and their underlying motivations.

Use tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs to find the keywords and questions your customers are typing to find you and visit your site, what terminology they use.

Surveys

What’s better to get customer insights than to directly talk to your customers? Surveys are one of the most effective ways to gain information to help you design your campaigns, stories, and narrative for your company. You can’t just run surveys over a sales call, or social media engagement.

When you run a survey, you need to have a goal for what you’re trying to uncover. Oftentimes, people throw in all kinds of questions related to products, pricing, user experience, messaging, etc. And soon, it becomes a mishmash of questions and information with no real, valuable outcome.

🛡️ Important Tip: When you run a survey, you should really have just one question that you want answered. This answer should enable you to achieve something specific. That way you will be focused on achieving a specific goal with each survey. 

When running a survey, focus on what specific tasks your users want to do, what their goals are, focus on their pain points, and objections. Do not focus on their demographics or other basic segmentations. 

Here are some valuable tips on running surveys:

  • Keep them short – only one question, or one subject at max
  • Don’t jump on your visitors with your survey when they arrive on your site. Show the survey when they have completed the action that they wanted to do on your site e.g. after a purchase, or after the download of an ebook or on exit intent.
  • Closed questions have better chances of getting a response. Whenever possible, ask closed questions.
  • Don’t ask for personal information like email addresses or phone numbers. Surveys are not lead magnets.
  • Start with an easy question like what’s your first name. It’s easy to answer and people are used to telling their names. This is just to ease them.
  • Choose an incentive for completing the survey. It doesn’t have to be a monetary gift but something you can easily give: free download of your ebook or free month of your SaaS product.

Prioritize the customer information

With all the information you have gathered, it can get cumbersome to present the information. Convincing someone to take action boils down to answering their questions and objections. Not all questions and objections are equally relevant, so you need to prioritise which questions and objections are absolute must, and deal breakers.

You can do that via a survey method called top task analysis. Assume that you have got a 100 questions from various research methods discussed above. What you can do is gather these questions, and remove the obvious ones that users don’t care much about. This will reduce the list to a more manageable list of around 60-70 questions.

Next, group all the questions under one theme or topics like pricing or features or customer support, etc. so that under each topic there are between 8-10 questions. 

Now, you ask users to rank the questions that are more relevant to them under each topic from 1 to 5. This way you will be able to find the most important and relevant questions to your users.

You can use these questions and objections to shape all of your campaigns. You can create Facebook ads, content, messaging, or email campaigns.

Top task analysis is a useful tool to prioritise and understand the most critical information that can boost your conversion rates. That is because you are addressing only the most relevant questions. You are not throwing in everything in your campaigns.

Use the techniques and exercises discussed in this article to know your customers. These are the techniques used by high-growth, user-centric companies to understand and learn the most burning needs and desires of their customers. They involve users in their decision-making through surveys, in-person exercises and usability tests. 

And once they’ve learned what’s important to their users, they let it guide the direction of the product, their marketing campaigns, and of course, their user experience.

Thoughts on User-Centric Marketing course

The course on user-centric marketing is offered as a part of growth marketing minidegree by CXL Institute. The course is highly engaging and full of real-life examples and tricks to learn about your customers.

It goes much deeper into various survey exercises like waiting room exercise, book cover exercise, card sorting, and unfacilitated usability testing. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend you to join the program.

Though I would have loved to see more slides and visuals for easier understanding, it was still fast-paced and easy to understand the course.

🛡️ You just finished reading Know Thy Customer: A Game of Growth (Chapter 2) – a series of articles on growth marketing. To read the next article, click here 👉 Conversion Research: A Game of Growth (Chapter 3)


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