Quit using cookie-cutter frameworks that “guarantee” success.
If you want better marketing strategies you need consumer behavior research. Some owners want to skip to making quick solutions because it seems easy, but it ends up costing them. The other way is to consult no one and think everyone is your target market, and that hurts your business too. Others will use cliché frameworks to try to get the job done but see diminishing returns over time. To truly implement your best marketing strategy yet, you need to consider how you can profit, position, and future plan your brand. You can only do that by looking at consumer behavior.
After consulting clients and analyzing industry movements, I can tell you, there’s a pattern here to watch out for. This doesn’t just relate to the B2C space, it includes B2B as well. We’re all consumers, and businesses are made up of people who consume. So, of course, the business itself functions and reflects a consumption process. And while consumers have behavior that can be measured and examined, so too does business.
There’s no way to have a comprehensive marketing strategy that has any hope of working without knowing the end consumer. When you know their consumptive patterns, you can make strategies that profit and shift with the times. The end consumer will be the one who will receive your proposed offer so studying them isn’t a half-baked idea. It’s a damn good one.
Without this key understanding, you have no insight to work from. You cannot know what features to work on next or what way to market them without this data. Marketers rely on adapting to the times and mirroring consumer perceptions and attitudes to meet their needs. If you can’t meet consumer needs, you can just toss your strategies out the window. Without the research, they’re just as good as a glorified hunch.
Consumer behavior, while highly interesting, is highly profitable too. It tracks the pattern of decision making consumers make before and after a purchase. The value that this provides is no short of a miraculous neurological phenomenon. We can study it and then strategically use it. But I’m sure you care more about the cold hard cash, I get it.
We seek out the opportunities to not only mutually exchange products and services with consumers but to make quite a bit of money at it. If we do it favorably for them, all the better. But sometimes providing a mere solution to an allegedly desired product isn’t enough. Consumers want differentiated experiences whose value is easy to understand. You have to entice the consumer if you want to even consider them forking over some cold hard cash. So, knowing how they are going to buy only makes that intel very valuable to your ability to entice. Technically speaking, you’d have the knowledge needed to make what you offer that much more exciting.
Consumers only begin to engage in this decision making when they’re presented with a problem or an overwhelming desire. And by analyzing the market and their needs, fulfilling this desire or solving that problem is exactly what you aim to do. You fill that gap for them and why you’re meant to be in their life. You’re the Virgil to their Dante. The Gandalf for their Frodo. This staged experience in their buying story is your true potential opportunity. Yet, it appears to many owners that attaining this intelligence seems to be of second-rate importance. Especially to that of making sales.
Unlocking key insights is the key to sales
Profit is determined upon sales. Seems obvious. Yet, those in sales will use all tactics available to achieve a sale, good, bad, and definitely ugly. Without understanding the necessary basics of the kind of leads they are, they rely on a flurry of them. They commence with talking to prospects without knowing what might be valuable to those prospects. And little does brand image matter when they try closing customers at the expense of it.
We rarely talk about the salespeople who closed a customer from an intelligent piece of consumer information. But it’s part of their secret sauce and why they go after high commissions. They’re the ones with experience and intuitive knowledge, or, in the least, a systematic process to extract consumer information.
We must get our hands on consumer information. It identifies and explains the needs of your customer plus how they will act. Giving that information to your team in training material and systematic processes is a recipe for success. You can just insert a sales rep at a specified sequence of the consumer’s heroic journey. This is part of the marvels of modern marketing stemming from user experience research. But there’s still friction in adopting this increasingly valuable approach.
Why consumer behavior in sales might seem counterintuitive
There’s always some pushback with strong business and sales ideology. “Salespeople are just supposed to make sales. They sell what we have. That’s their job.” Of course, dogmatic salesmen might not like this approach. It goes against the hungry salesman doctrine that lives upon beating their chest in the wild selling ballpoint pens to anyone. But why?
Business was founded on the concept that you must do what’s cost-efficient. Sales was founded on the concept that all consumers are idle and you must force them out of it. But concepts have changed. We’ve begun to take a turn to focus on increasingly complex socio-cultural views. And this has immensely influenced the marketing concept. Newer socio-political groups propagate the trope of the greedy businessman and the slimy, snake-oil salesman. Even despite the many changes to philosophy that newer business is built upon, these beliefs are still prevalent.
Maybe the sales guys are trying to steal back the narrative from compliance consultants and accountants who think most sales reps are a waste of money. Perhaps businessmen really do need to be shuffling papers 86% of the time they’re at the office to keep up airs. For all we know, it may speak to a deep masculine psyche and that may even be the cause for its cult-like hype.
But sales is not about the businessman, it’s about the consumer. Thus, every sales rep needs to know about consumer behavior. Even salespeople say their likelihood of closing increases if they have prior information about the customer before they book a meeting with them. Benjamin Barber, the late political theorist once said, “Consumer sales depend on the habits and behaviors of consumers, and those who manipulate consumer markets cannot but address behavior and attitude. That is presumably the object of the multibillion-dollar global advertising industry. Tea drinkers are improbable prospects for Coke sales.” If you want to sell more, you will need to know how they buy.
Better sales through advertising segmentation
To begin understanding how people buy you must analyze your target buyers. Everyone is not your market. And with the amount of fragmentation occurring with each passing day, your target is getting smaller and more varied. You cannot expect your salespeople to adapt to each individual customer and warm them up to buy. But you can do that with advertising.
Advertising does the job of what 100 salesmen can do in a fraction of the time. It’s, for many reasons, why a flood of salesmen have turned online advertisers at the turn of the digital revolution. But many salesmen have turned their left-brained tactics of interrupting in-person to online. This unfortunately has given rise to the creation of baseless and boring, trashy advertisements that follow us to every device. While it may work tactically, a growing fatigue transpires. Customers are getting over targeted with the same ad and growing sour by the day. And while the strategy must evolve, it dubiously leans to evolving into another baseless tactic.
Companies in the new age spend more money on advertising than ever before. American marketing pioneer John Wanamaker hilariously said, “Half my advertising dollars are wasted… I just can’t figure out which half.” The truth is, most of it is wasted these days without proper strategy. It’s not about interrupting and forcing inert human beings into action. It’s about the experience of value.
And it’s not just about having the right ad, it’s about segmenting the market properly to target them with the right ad. Because if you target improperly, your ad costs go through the roof. What might happen if your company chose to do some research, or use their tools and spend some money on the research? In the least, it can orient our decision-makers, sales reps, and marketing staff with this consumer behavior model. Once that happens, we can properly position ourselves in the market.
The best marketing strategy is about positioning yourself to make the moves you need to make so that your company stays alive. And perhaps in power. It’s called: the right message, at the right time, to the right people in the right place. But it’s also as complicated as communicating with aliens. And by the looks of it, it’s getting more complex by the day.
For one thing, companies that don’t recognize consumer needs are more likely to make costly mistakes. We see this when they enter new markets without cultural understanding. We even see this when they can’t sustain a brand persona in rocky political times. When you’re unable to position yourself at an advantage, there’s no way you’re keeping up with your consumer. They are confronted with numerous choices every moment. They’re experiencing decision-making fatigue. If it’s not familiar, surprising, or contextual, it’s not being considered.
Not to mention, if your competitors are selling what they do better than you, it’s bad news. You might as well buy your business a wheelchair as you slide further into decline. It takes a precise strategic effort to position in the shifting arena of the times. And if you want to win the war of market share and market growth, you will need to look to consumer behavior.
We want consumers to keep coming back for more. Or at least carry a favorable place in their hearts for us. Having a consumer eating out of our own hands is definitely a nice place to be among the haves and have nots. This way, we get to look and feel like saviors as they turn their jaws to bite the hands of our competitors instead. But to participate in this level of artful warfighting, you must do your research before strategyzing.
Consumer behavior shapes a winning contemporary brand strategy
Branded material and artfully strategized advertising campaigns are the bedrock of your brand communication. Crafting communications is based upon making sure the recipient identifies, understands, and acknowledges what you’re saying. And even more so, sees themselves in it. Brand strategy is a complex subject deserving of its own article and is the basis of the battle for attention and retention. This is a battle that has been happening for 30 years online. And now a new phase is beginning.
We’re now reaching a turning point where the answer that was light years ahead 70 years ago is now becoming normal practice. If you want more positive attitudes to your brand image, you’ll need to consider consumer messaging. It asks the deep question of what on earth consumers are more likely to be receptive to. And what is plausible messaging for them to receive from you. We’d have to put ourselves in their shoes to get a decent idea, and consumer behavior refers to this.
Creating and managing brand reputations comes from observing consumer perceptions and attitudes. You might be able to sell a product successfully without the foundation of leadership or differentiation as many e-commerce brands have in the last two decades. But these brands still follow and flow with consumer trends. The Internet has been fairly new and gathering adoption, but when it’s the norm a different phenomenon happens. And it’s that point that new disciplines emerge.
Where other disciplines end and consumer behavior begins
In the most successful cases, Internet brands master the art of mass customization to sell their products or services. With the advance of digital marketing tools helping launch millions of online businesses, niche brands stem from the success of micromarketing. And with multiple low barrier apps, it’s fairly easy to create direct-to-consumer brands at little expense. Today, any individual can launch a successful niche brand by investing in some digital marketing and brand identity.
There’s no denying in how these disciplines directly influence attention and retention, even if they seem to be cosmetic fixes. But fancy shells or funnels with all the bells and whistles don’t necessarily mean your brand will deliver satisfaction. User experience helps to alleviate this necessary function of consumer buying behavior. UX focuses on making the journeys of your users or brand consumers as pleasant as possible and eliminating friction along the customer journey.
Product designers utilize this methodology to create and deliver products that work for the user. Website and app designers use it to make sure users continue using the website or app. It may even answer questions about how your user will behave after using your product or service. But outside of this context, it has yet to tell you how consumers will shift on a continual basis of experiencing life.
To ongoingly influence consumers beyond these disciplines, you need consumer behavior research. Consumer behavior tracks what consumers feel after they have consumed the product and service. It accounts for cultural, political, and environmental shifts that have a direct impact on how consumers will buy. It sheds light on how their actions will tend to go and puts you directly in the place to plan. And future planning will directly affect your brand offerings now.
Consumer behavior analysis helps you position your brand’s offer
Contrary to popular belief, brand strategy doesn’t start from the business leader. It always starts with the consumer. Entrepreneurs who truly get this create value from the ideas that inspired them. Those ideas came from consumers. They noticed a gap, a problem, an unfulfilled desire and decided to quickly capitalize on it. Timing, they knew, was everything.
Paul Graham famously once said, “The very best startup ideas have three things in common: they’re something the founders want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize is worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.” He also said, “The way to make your startup grow is to make something users really love.” Many times the answer lies in between feasibility, desirability,
Just how many business firms were “concerned” with the implications of consumer behavior about 10 to 20 years ago? The focus was on exploiting promising new markets and tracking sales results. Hardly any concern was paid for why consumers did what they did. As a result, it’s created a booming opportunity for digital entrepreneurs, products, and brands to fill the new gap consumers desired. The conscious brand or the relatable brand. The brand that solves their problem without pickpocketing them.
But growth doesn’t come in an instant. You must understand who else is doing it just like you do. But perhaps you’re the only one who is doing what you do, you still fall into the trap of irrelevance. Just because no one else is doing something like you, doesn’t mean it’s going to sell. Take foreign proposals for instance. Unless you have warm attitudes about product origins or recognize its need or superiority, it doesn’t mean it will sell.
Historical mistakes deem lessons learned
Conglomerate brands continue to expand into the realms of international scale. And there’s much to learn from their positioning failures. Especially in the epoch of normalized e-commerce from big and small brands on social apps. The expansion of globalism, stronger economic international relations, and advancing tech has played a major role. While there’s more opportunity, there’s also opposition. Both from the competition, and disenchanted consumers who have been burned more than once.
We can take heed from history. Due to American companies mismarketing abroad in the 90s, it’s shone a light on the lack of adequate knowledge of foreign consumer needs. Their biggest mistake? Assuming that the marketing strategies that worked at home would also work abroad. They’ve failed to launch successfully overseas without key pieces of insight into consumer behavior. The ignorant assumption that all will want to assimilate into this new world of consumerism is damaging. The opportunity still stands for new markets and territory, but without consumer insight, both sides will be left confused.
And in the age of TikTok, the same issues don’t occur as they once did. A new one emerges: the competition of attention. Who will get to those ears and eyeballs not faster, but smoother than the other guy will win out in this new combat? This is the question we will ask in the next 5-10 years. And in twenty years, we’ll see a refinement. From this, we see a new way to measure consumer behavior digitally. And there’s still much to prepare for the future.
Consumer behavior is imperative to futureplan. We profit by positioning, but preparation here is key. Learning from our past mistakes will keep us focused in the right direction, but the market changes as the market does. To confront uncertainty, consumer behavior studies can prepare us to plan better for these changes. Especially when it comes to graphical shifts.
There are four graphical ways we can segment and learn more about consumer backgrounds.
Somehow they’ve all but disappeared from common marketing language in the SMB world of kill or die. But I’d like to refocus upon these graphical contexts and make it easier if you have fewer resources. They hold the keys to how a consumer will likely respond to any marketing strategy. Some of the most major shifts to consumerism have occurred after the Second World War.
Among them a few are:
- The increasing concern of health, nutrition, exercise, and medicine.
- Copious amounts of access to information on the Internet.
- An increasing emphasis on value and the variety of ways to orient to it.
- Unwavering focus on a stable environment with locally sourced, no waste, cruelty-free products.
- Rapid technology adoption and the emergence of software moguls.
- The rise of the aging affluent baby boomer retirees and new-age money millennials.
- The scrutiny on unfair economic and institutional practices.
- Major social and justice action causing further consumer fragmentation.
- Policy changes resulting in online conscious consumer movements.
If you pay attention to past graphical shifts you can begin to be less surprised by future ones. You prepare your company for resilience. Not only to create the best marketing strategy but to stay alive and well in the 21st century. And as past changes have occurred in higher amounts of consumer empowerment, so will the future changes. They may, in fact, become more exaggerated. More empowerment to the consumer means they have more choice in the marketplace. And that might even mean that their choice isn’t you.
Focus with earnest on consumer empowerment, choice, and encouragement
To buy or not to buy? That is the question. The amount of information available at our fingertips has armed the average human with a pocket scholar. It’s empowered consumers into finding the information they need when they need it. More than ever before, you can easily find backgrounds, reviews, or answers to whatever plagues you in the middle of the night. It’s also empowered consumers to demand information if they don’t have it. They don’t want to deal with cognitive load. Consumers have a choice. And, in many ways, this choice may be as crippling as if they were without one.
This ability to have information on demand has morphed into a reliance on technology. And this has lead consumers to have a tougher time in making decisions. Cognitive dissonance, no matter how much your UX, brand, or marketing team is on it, still occurs if things don’t add up if something happens. So it’s important you state what is of undeniable benefit to customers as soon as possible to make it a no brainer. And even now with excess skepticism and scrutiny, the growing trend is to allow for discourse between consumers and brands.
This results in consumers feeling encouraged to develop a relationship with the brand not based on merely transactional exchanges. Encouragement helps us to make decisions that can change attitudes and perceptions. This has everything to do with consumer behavior in the moment. And it also influences consumers to behave positively in future interactions. But doing this can easily be seen as conditioning or manipulating if you’re not recognizing their deep needs.
Consumer loyalty is realized when you recognize their deep needs
How will you fulfill a deep need without knowing someone deeply? You can’t. But in marketing, the closest we get to this is through consumer behavior research. Segmentation is only part of it. Breaking down a person into their graphical contexts invites us to make connections. No two people will feel the exact same way about one thing. This leads to increasing fragmentation in the marketplace. And that makes it harder to segment, but makes it even more necessary. Fulfilling deep needs will be the game-changer in our marketplace.
Collective consumers are in a PTSD state. They’ve been manipulated, brainwashed, and hoodwinked by companies and their disorganized traditional marketing tactics. And this sentiment is now harder to breakthrough with more empowered consumers connecting with one another socially. We’ve all experienced manufactured sweeping sentiments in the past. It’s left a sour taste in our mouths from feeling less empowered with less choice outside of just walking away. But the promise of social proof makes it easier for consumers to seek out what they need.
By making your brand what they need requires finesse never seen thus far. Consumer behavior research has always married itself with producing consumer loyalty. And this may seem troublesome to Gen Z consumers who will dominate the market in 5-10 years. Their knowledge of companies mining for their information becomes increasingly relevant. And this begs the question: how do we keep consumers satisfied long term even when they know exactly what we’re trying to do? Obtaining consumer behavior research creates a quandary in the new age.
Best practices to incorporate consumer behavior into your best marketing strategy
By now you’ll understand why you must implore into research to prepare to position. Profit is on the line. Progress is too. It would be best to leave you with the practices to keep you a step ahead. It takes diligent implementation to cover the bases to design compelling communication. And a very pointed concentration on your consumer will reap the highest results. These require commitment and concentrated effort. When you change your approach, you not only change your marketing strategy. You change your internal marketing.
- Spotlight the need to focus refinement on narrower market segmentation through further study into consumer behavior.
- Reward employees who engage in making connections with current events and customers. They are your eyes and ears.
- Provide education and incentive to your clients to engage in consumer behavior research. Preach the benefits and purpose.
- Run polls with employees and managers to gather internal feedback on areas of improvement. Host meetings to brainstorm solutions.
- Mold all brand identity, marketing, and UX to the company’s positioning to meet consumer needs regularly. Treat it like getting a haircut.
- Test out new ideas in communication and document the process. Each touchpoint should be whittled to have a more customer-oriented approach.
- Ask for feedback! Try to assess genuine responses and reactions without looking at them through the lens of heuristics or bias. The goal is to judge what is real.
- Endorse policies and messaging that have a positive effect on your consumer base. This will mark you as favorable in their eyes.
- Support measurement in everything. You will begin to see the factors that influence consumers to purchase from the data.
- Focus more on the individual consumer and their persona as your representation of 2-10% of your entire customer base.
- Use social media listening to understand emergent thoughts and behaviors from circumstantial cues.
- Target your advertising to test out what consumers are responsive to. Adjust your ad spend in areas of highest results.
- Do not sleep on the cultural, political, and environmental implications on your consumer segments. Stay on top of news and trends.
- Partner with industry leaders who have an ear to the ground and their eyes peeled for what’s to come.
- Engage in healthy discourse with live events that cater to garnering consumer behavior research within your audience who attends.
- Regularly observe consumers in their natural environment. Run focus groups to gauge consumer opinions.
Where the rubber meets the road
At this point, I hope you’re convinced. You cannot have the very best marketing strategy money can buy if you don’t conduct consumer behavior research. Or in the least hire a consultant or researcher to do so. Finding this out before you move to brand strategy will result in more profit and less unnecessary expense. Regardless of your company size or revenue, you can still engage in consumer behavior awareness. And as a result confirm those glorified entrepreneurial hunches you may have.
But the white magic of consumer behavior research is more complicated than just conducting it. It’s how you conduct it too. It’s about how it will change core business philosophical values in the coming years. If you were able to understand this from this whole article, I’m happy for you. Things are about to get a lot more targeted.