a3. Our clients will let us know who they are, if we know how to listen to them. Everyone likes to think that the world cares about them. So the drive to identify and express one's self is a natural thing and your clients will do it for you, just like you do it for those that you buy from.
Concluding what some of the other things are is the easy part. Do they have a Kayak strapped to the roof of their car? What hobbies do they talk about or what unusual niche words do they have in their vocabulary. Do they make reservations about the same time every year or would you never see them again unless you called them?
How you interpret these little gems of fact, gained by your edge-giving insight, will be what determines how many additional zeros will be on the bottom line this year, from your efforts.
For example: Walking is a popular activity in the Park Industry these days. To figure out how to make money from walking, think of all the things one needs to walk. More-over, think of all the things one needs to come and walk at your park from wherever they live. We can picture it like having a free concert to sell hotel rooms.
Some fundamental things you can do to understand your customers better:
1. Talk to your employees about their experiences with your clients
2. Periodically acquire some outsourced demographic research
3. Look at the other things your clients do and use, other than you
a1. You may be surprised to find how talkative your employees can be about their experiences, when they realize that you are not trying to find out "who screwed up" and actually do need their help. On the contrary, it will make them feel like they are making a valuable contribution to the success of the company and they may tell you more than you need to know.
Reactions to these stories should be based on reason, intuition and experience. Don't jump to conclusions... instead, use your vast knowledge of your business to capture the character of your client and how they are using your services.
For example, if every story seems to start out with: "So this person was walking down to the ice machine..." then you might wonder whether people are having drinks in their room instead of the bar, or are you a popular prep stop for some other attraction near by, and the clients are just packing their coolers for that trip in the morning? If you rent cabins, it could mean that your guests are having friends over, which is good, but it is something that would help you to know.
a2. When you ask what constitutes demographic research, you will get answers that vary about as widely as cloud shapes.
What it means, is some amount of actual research into tangible, measurable numbers that are supposed to reveal the nature of who your clients are and how they behave. There are those that will preach sweepstakes type surveys, focus groups and purchased demographics reports to these ends... and that may work for you. Just remember that there are MANY credible sources for research on your clients, no matter who they are and it will take some time to figure out which combination of demographics will give you the best picture of your clients.
There are some free or really cheap sources for more abstract numbers. Some will say that you get what you pay for. If that is true, then it is true only when it comes to your ability to glean their meaning. If you realize that "abstract metrics" can be easily fool you and they are most likely not comprehensive, then you should do well with these other sources... in addition to some more traditional ones.
Watching certain financial markets is a good example of this concept.
b2. Even if something spewed forth in a brainstorming session sounds irrelevant or simply silly and useless, we shouldn't dismiss it too quickly. Often we will find that the wrong idea was a vital step in us ever getting to the right idea.
"Some of us are only
here to ask the
The suggestion of an open mind has other implications as well. Other detrimental things that we see in the business world every day can damage or even destroy what would otherwise have been a successful session. Things like unbridled power struggles between individuals or unchecked egos can be troublesome out in the day-to-day, but can absolutely wreak havok on the creative process... with the potential of destroying even the participants will to try... negating any chance of success.
Our willingness to address these issues may very well determine the success of our creative efforts.
b3. "...but how do I know for sure, how my clients picture me?" Answer: At this stage you can't. Your clients, themselves, will answer questions about your services differently every time you ask them... and that is why some of us question the validity of focus groups. The only way you will know that you really do understand your clients and their perceptions is when they predictably respond to your marketing. This response is measurable in gross bottom line.
Still, there are some things you can do to help you get on the same page:
1. Use what you know about them (from section: a) to predict how they do and will perceive you
2. If you create promotional material that pretty closely matches the true character of your organization, they will believe it... if we are strong enough to be honest about who we are, the truth will become self evident
3. Sometimes it helps to try to picture yourself from their perspective. If I were them, what would I want out of me?
4. Maybe take a couple of days off and use your own services
b4. Good creative work usually costs good time. Unless you already know what you want when you first sit down, one thing will have to lead to another untill the right idea is conceived, and then it will have to evaluated for validity.
The main, and in-fact almost only, thing we can do to speed the process along is to create an environment for our sessions that fosters inspiration. In some cases that means being somewhere besides the office that your subconscious has been trained is for work. That is to nullify conditioned responses. It most definitely includes presenting the sessions in such a way that everyone understands there is to be no mockery of anyone's ideas and no idea will be supressed without reason. People are generally self conscious about their creative ideas. If you smash the first one they ever give you, they probably will never give you another. That is to condemn judgement and encourage abstracts. Some like to play music of various or strange types. Some like to go on retreat for their sessions. Some will only have brainstorming sessions on casual Fri. and some must be carrying their lucky penny. You must find what works for you.
c1. Unless you're doing an Avante Garde piece, you're going to want your presentation, or your texture, to match the message you are trying to send... and probably the product or service as well. Remember, however, the most important thing about your presentation is that it appeals to your client.
For example: Let's say that we are a resort. Let's say our target group is young to middle aged business people, and our message is "fun for me"... We are going to want a picture of something that this group would picture as fun for themselves. It won't be a pool slide or a 10% off coupon that will close them. It will be more sophisticated... a guy swimming with dolphins that are bouncing a colorful ball as a metaphorical board meeting, or a first person perspective of a woman being helped out of the water by a handsome guy and some catchy phrase. Or maybe something like parasailing or dancing. We would want fun yet sophisticated fonts and rich but not too flashy colors. Now we have matched the client to something they will think is fun and we've done it in a way that respects the fact that they probably have some taste and education... but it does look fun!
b1. Never forget to consider, when thinking about how to talk to your market, whether you have a retail or wholesale market... because they speak an entirely different language of perceived benefits and motivations.
When you are sending your message to the retail market, you will want to speak plainly about individual benefits, and are encouraged to use emotional hooks. At this point, you will be talking directly to the end user who is interested in one or a small set of your products.
A wholesaler, on the other hand, will probably care most about whether or not your product is something that they can resale for a profit. The two are similiar only in the fact that they are looking for the biggest benefit for themselves. The difference being that the benefit a wholesaler is looking for, is higher profit and you may be wasting your money on advertising if you are attempting to use emotional recall cues (or hooks) in wholesale ad.
Remember, talk to your clients like they talk.
c2. One could argue that keeping your message simple is a good idea because people have such short attention spans... and I'm sure that there is plenty of evidence to support such a position. In this case, however, we're going to suggest keeping your message simple for the mere reason that more people will be able to associate with it if it is simple. Probably, the simpler you can make it, the higher the potential turn over rate is.
Please don't misunderstand, we're not saying that people are... slow. We're saying that some of us are better at recognizing metaphors, symbolism and similies than others.
It's similiar to pitching or trying to close a sell in an ad. We don't pitch in a relational ad (it's far to easy to say no to an ad, and then we have established a pattern), we also don't ask the client to read time prohibitive amounts of text in an ad and we don't insult them by sending them a message that they can't understand. It's just common courtesy and common sense.
We also want them to remember it long enough to tell a friend about it.
Just because your message is simple, doesn't mean that your ad has to lack the pizzaz that you need to generate a buzz. No matter how simple, your campaign can still be elegant, informative, viral, classy or anything else you need it to be.
Remember, use the emotional association of your message for your ad's power, not extra words.
As any great artist will tell you, the most powerful artwork is that which has just enough definition to direct the admirer's mind in the general direction that the artist is trying to take it. There is no brush that will make a stroke that is more vivid than the one the admirer's imagination will create for itself, given the chance. That's why the book is always better than the movie.
We're not saying don't use high res. graphics. We're talking about your message. The more narrowly you define your message emotionally, the more chance you take of ostricizing your clients own emotions and rendering your hook ineffective.
Modern Marketing 101
The 3½ Functions
Do's and Don'ts
It's All Relative