shutterstock_125451557Marketing books are filled with theories on ways to meet or exceed customer expectations. So why do so many companies fail miserably when it comes to keeping people happy? It’s simple — they don’t really know their customer. Studies say that marketers at 80 percent of brands lack the customer data to drive effective marketing campaigns. 80 percent! That means they don’t even have the basic information available to send the kind of personalized, targeted campaigns that solidify brand loyalty and return business. That means companies are spending way more marketing dollars than they should be continually chasing after new business simply to get ahead.

Roy Hollister Williams said, “The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations. So how do you get to know your customer? Here are a few simple ways:

Hold an Event

Events can be great places to showcase experiential marketing tactics that bring people closer to a brand and generate buzz. During the event, you’re face-to-face with your customers, so make the most of that opportunity to uncover customer expectations. Customers are asking questions and companies should be absorbing information about their desires, motivations and challenges. Events are also a prime opportunity to sell product — there’s an instant rapport happening with customers, which leads to interest and eventually sales. This is also a great venue to get testimonials from happy customers, which in turns give credibility to your brand and the experience. Once you have testimonials you can use them in a variety of ways on websites, in marketing collateral and in your social feeds.

Know Your Data

Take advantage of the tools that are at your disposal to get to know customer expectations. This can be as simple as collecting customer feedback through online and mail-in surveys. Keep in mind, if you’re asking a customer for a favor, which is their time to give an opinion, reward them for this time and effort. Nothing is more annoying than to receive a lengthy customer feedback request with a mere “thank you” for participating. Offer a discount off future services or a cash back-reward. On-demand listening to actual customer conversation will provide some enlightening feedback as well. Most importantly, share the information you collect across the entire enterprise, from sales to marketing and operations.

Integrating what you know with a CRM (customer relationship management) system will create a single hub with data that contains actionable intelligence about every single one of your customers. The data should be easily accessible to those who interact regularly with your customers. Utilizing analytics and database tools will give you an even greater understanding of customer expectations.

Social’s Role

A new study on customer care by Aberdeen Group cites that 60 percent of contact centers are using social media as part of their customer relationship-building efforts. It’s a fact that people are using Facebook and Twitter to either sing a company’s praises or throw them under the bus. These conversations need to be monitored and routed to the appropriate person to confront head on. Companies with a cloud contact center are better able to analyze interactions within the context of a customer’s buying history. Using analytics tools, staff can prioritize customer comments based on relevance and important, giving the company the flexibility to respond to the customers that matter most.

Give People a Reason

Why would somebody choose your company over the competition? They’ve got to have a good reason, so what’s yours? Advertising executives refer to this as a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. It’s essentially the framework for a brand. Google’s USP as an example, is providing a user exactly the information he or she is searching for, without having to sort through thousands of sites to find the quality information. FedEx’s USP is evident in their tagline — when your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.” Soon after it was introduced, FedEx began to own the space of package shipping.

What makes a company unique? Think of your company as if it were a person. Mary down the street is a pretty brunette who is always friendly when you do your morning jog. You’d expect her to be the kind of person who would help out in a jam. You think this because her behavior has been predictable over time. What has your brand come to mean to customers over the years? Or if it’s a newer company, what values do you think you stand for?

A good place to start when uncovering what your unique selling proposition is would be to look at it from the perspective of the customer. What “pain points” have plagued their daily life when it comes to your product? What do people desire most from your particular type of products. Take Swiffer cleaning products by Procter & Gamble as an example. Their proactive, consumer-centric approach to pre-empting threats in the marketplace helped deliver double-digit growth year-after-year. Consumers’ wants and needs were at the heart of this success. Swiffer’s novel approach to qualitative advertising research included asking users and non-user customers to respond to historical, current and future pieces of Swiffer copy.

The More You Know

If you’re a business-to-consumer company, you need to find out important market research information such as your customers’ gender, age, marital status and occupation. Then you’ll want to know household income. Household income will give you a good indication of someone’s purchasing power. Retailers for example will look at the median or average household income as a benchmark for whether or not they open a new location in any given market. A specialty fashion store for example would target areas of town with consistent household income in the $100,000 range. High affluent households have annual incomes at $100,000 and are considered one of the fastest growing segments in the U.S. They are a strong group of consumers, who are opinionated and active both physically and civically. Middle-income households bring in between $20,000 and $50,000 every year. They are budget-minded and much more conservative in their spending, as one would expect. Low-income households dip down to $20,000 or below and many at this level are living at poverty level, so it stands to reason that they spend hardly anything on goods and services. Education levels can also be an indicator for current for future spending.

Digital — Know Who’s Looking and Why

With digital traffic on the rise, companies should absolutely be paying attention to their site visitors. Who’s looking, why are they looking, and are the people you really want to be looking, doing so, are important questions to ask. Insight and analytics software enables you to do this. Just remember, visitor profiles are only one piece of the puzzle and there are many other factors to consider. How did they get to your page, for example and from which device — mobile, desktop or tablet? How long did they spend on each page and did their visit convert to a sale?

Looking at digital traffic requires a whole different view from the marketing lens and takes into account behavioral traits with regard to browsing, usage and situations that could affect consumer behaviors. Maybe your mobile view wasn’t working and that’s why you lost a customer right before a buy.

Knowing customer expectations is like having the “golden ticket” when it comes to devouring market share, making the sale, and keeping customers happy and wanting to return over and over again. But just like any relationship, if you don’t know what makes somebody tick, you’re never going to get deep enough into his or her world to stay around very long.

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