Thursday, June 21, 2012

If you are in business, you better know your customer

Joachim De Posada

By Joachim De Posada

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If you are in business, you better know your customer.

People walk how they drive - they keep to the right if they are from the US or Puerto Rico or they keep to the left if they are from the United Kingdom, British Virgin Islands or any other place where they drive on the left. Traffic signs must reflect this but they also must work from other angles in case the driver or the pedestrian is a foreigner.

In a normal store, shelves and racks work better at an angle too, you don’t see signs that are not strategically placed. 

How about the way you package your product?

It needs to be seen or read by the client from a variety of angles. It must also be user friendly.

Let me give you a personal example. One of my clients is from Honduras. They are in the candy business and they were telling me that one of their favorite candies, one that had a great flavor for kids, was being outsold by the competitor. How could that be?

So, I did some investigating. I simply stood in a supermarket and when mothers came to buy the candies with their kids and they picked the competitor’s candy, I would ask why?

Their answer stunned me. And it happened time and time again. “Oh, we like the other one better but this one we are buying because it is so much easier to open. My kids can’t open the package of the candy we like best.”

Can you imagine? This candy factory was losing thousands of dollars with the preferred product that people were not buying because the way it was packaged.

I love chocolate milk. I stopped buying a specific brand because it was so difficult to peel away that silver aluminum cover it had under the cap.

You need to know your client, what they like, what they don’t like, why they buy, why they don’t buy.

Books that have effective covers, you can see the front and the back but also when the book is in a bookstore shelf, the reader must read it from the side. It is too much to ask for a reader to pull out every book so as to read the title or what the book is about. And the cover better be great or the book will not sell.

Let’s face it, clients or shoppers don’t know or care what your original intentions are. They will buy according to their specific needs, what they value and how they value it. It is your job to find that out if you want to stay in business. If you watch your prospects or clients closely with an open mind, you can learn a lot about way they buy your product or service. Sometimes the reasons you can’t even imagine.

Let’s take a simple men’s t-shirt. You would suppose that you are selling to men and all your advertising or messages should be directed to men. Yet, you would be surprised how many women buy men’s t-shirts for nightshirts, to sleep on.

You could go to a store and see men waiting for their wives while they shop and they don’t have a place to sit. Where do they sit? On a display. What does it mean? They are uncomfortable so they will want to leave in a hurry and they will pressure the wives to finish buying quickly. If they were sitting on a comfortable chair with some good magazines to read, the wives would buy a lot more because they will have more time to do so.

You might see customers going through a fast food lane and then eating the food in the parking lot inside their cars, the reason being that the restaurant has uncomfortable chairs or is too noisy. A customer in the parking lot isn’t likely to buy anything else; one inside the restaurant might just get up and buy an extra soda or dessert.

There was a bakery in New York that specialized in Jewish Kosher food so all their advertising was geared to their Jewish clients. Guess what? One day they decided to do a survey of their customers and the found out that the majority of their customers were Arabs. So, they changed their advertising. Again, you must know your customer.

There was an owner of a radio station that changed the programming of his station to  rock music, a genre of popular music that originated as rock and roll in 1950’s USA and developed into a range of different styles, heavily influenced by rhythm and blues, country music, jazz and classical music.  The owner of the station was asked if he really liked that type of music and he replied that he hated it but that his customers loved it and he played what his customers wanted to hear.

I have a good friend who recently sold his chain of very successful women’s clothing stores so that he could become a business speaker and consultant. He studied his clients to the point that women and their husbands would drive miles to his store although there were stores closer to where the clients lived.

He offered coffee to his clients, comfortable chairs for their husbands, the women could take as many pieces of clothing as they wanted into the fitting room, had a playground for the kids and he offered free diapers for babies that were brought to the store by their mothers. Clients loved shopping in his store.

He once said to me that when people walk down an aisle and pick up what they want, they walk back the way they came so the most popular gear should be where the most people will have to walk the most distance.

No wonder supermarkets place the milk far away from the entrance so that a shopper has to walk to the back to get it and on the way there or on the way back, will look at something else and grab it.

Right next to the cashier are impulse items that have a big profit margin because while clients wait, they will look around and pick stuff right at their fingertips.

Different people shop at different times. Earlier in the day mums do most of the shopping. After 5pm it’s workers. Shouldn’t owners take that into account in regards to offers, displays and signs that appeal to the specific target group?

No matter what industry you are in,know your client and even with a recession you will make lots of money.