Radio-Hed-Logo-2By Jeffrey Hedquist

You can’t go back. Once you’ve learned something, had an experience, you can’t pretend you never had it. It’s hard to become innocent again.

In the case of your clients, they’re deep into whatever it is they do – making, selling, managing, marketing, and networking. It’s difficult for them to pull back and put themselves in the shoes or mindset of someone who doesn’t know what they know – someone like their potential customers.

We’re the same way - we think we know how radio or advertising or marketing or selling works. That’s why it’s useful to speak with customers or potential customers to find out what they need, what they want.

Be a child. If we don’t come to the table with innocence, we might end up speaking to our client’s perception of what their customer wants or needs and we might miss the boat completely. Then our cleverly crafted message will be out there echoing in the void, instead of connecting with the hearts of the intended audience.

It’s like when we create a message about price, hoping that will bring in customers, when we should be showing how our product or service could change the lives of our client’s customers, making price almost irrelevant.

Ask the dumb questions. Pretend you know nothing. Continue to ask “why?” Ask how they feel. Gather stories. When I do this, I’m continually surprised by the answers. I remember interviewing customers and non-customers of a whole foods store, thinking that price would be a major objection and finding that psychological discomfort in an unfamiliar environment was the big obstacle. Talking to a certain group of potential homebuyers and learning that trustworthy relationships and convenience trumped price and value.

One of the ways I learn about how to market to someone is to ask him or her to tell me a story. I can then use these stories to sell to their peers. “Tell me the story of how you came to buy (product or service). How did you make your decision? What was the deciding factor? How did you feel before you made the decision? Afterwards? How do you feel now? What was difficult about the process? What was easy?

The dumber you get, the smarter you become. The better a patient listener you are, the more accurate and useful information you’ll get.

Gather stories. I love stories, so it’s fun for me to follow threads of conversation and pull even more stories from a person. If you approach this exercise as if you knew nothing, prepare to be amazed, astonished, intrigued or at least mildly surprised. That is what listeners to the commercial should experience as well. This is seat of the pants consumer research. You can then create commercials, and even help your client change the way their company does business so it will match what customers want to feel. If you can help your clients to help their customers make easy decisions, then you’re more likely to get their business.


© 1997-2011 Hedquist Productions, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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