Book Excerpt: The Power of Customer-Obsessed Marketing

(Note: This week's blog post is an excerpt from my latest book, Marketing to Humans: A Customer-Obsessed Strategy to Drive Connection and Sales)


Every single purchase we make is about filling a need. It may not be a real need. It may only be something we think we require in order to live a safe or fulfilled life. But real or not, every single time we put down money in exchange for goods or services, we are hoping the thing we buy will make our lives better or easier.


A compression sleeve to alleviate knee pain. A car with more safety features to protect the family. A nicer haircut to become a more attractive person.


Because every purchase is about fulfilling a need, advertising is simply a matter of convincing the buyer that you are the best need-fulfiller in the market.


And this means you must understand what your buyer’s biggest problems are. More specifically, you have to figure out what the customer perceives their needs to be


Because they may not the needs you perceive. 


Consider Derek, the hypothetical client we created a profile for in the previous chapter. Let’s say you’re a contractor. All your advertising is built around the promise that you know how to make home improvements that drastically increase the market value of the property. When Derek is ready to add an addition to his home, do you think he’s going to come to you or to the contractor who promises to guide homeowners through creating a custom space that meets their family’s needs?


He’s going to go to the other guy, because—as we have established—Derek isn’t trying to flip his home. He may care about the market value of his property, but his long-term goal is to create a home his kids will want to return to and possibly even buy one day.


The important point here is that Derek’s priorities are not necessarily obvious. Why? Because there are plenty of homeowners out there who do care about continuously upgrading and selling so they can buy bigger, better properties. 


Bottom line: you can’t assume. You need to get to know your buyer’s needs. And you need to look at two categories: practical needs and deeper needs.


Deeper Needs


I’m going to start with deeper needs, because that’s where your marketing messages should begin. Look at the construction of every memorable commercial.


Olive Garden promises togetherness and good times (deeper need) by offering a really good deal on food your whole family loves (practical need).


Kay Jewelers makes your love felt (deeper need) through quality diamonds (practical need).


Nike inspires you to be bold and resilient (deeper need) by… wearing great shoes? Buying a moisture-wicking workout tee? We don’t really know for sure because most of Nike’s


advertising shows us the product but doesn’t actually talk about it.


So, what is your customer’s deeper need? 


Another way to ask that question is:


What could you say in your first line of advertising that would make your client immediately imagine a better or easier life?


As I mentioned earlier, 911 Restoration marketing puts heavy emphasis on our promise to give customers a Fresh Start after disaster. We know our clients see a lot of competitors promising to “fix” their situation quickly, using quality equipment and proven methods. But we also know that pretty much every property owner can be confident that their situation is “fixable.” Water can be removed. Soot can be cleaned. Mold can be killed. But what customers don’t know is whether they can dare to hope that their home or business will ever be as strong, beautiful, and pristine as it was before. Will this incident hurt their property value? Will their refuge always feel a little less perfect? All the hard work and financial resources they put into making their property a sanctuary… was it all for nothing?


Our marketing puts those fears to rest right away. We assure clients that we make their property new again. We can’t undo the disaster, but we can turn the disaster into an opportunity to create a space that’s even better than before.


So, what deeper need do your buyers have? How can you tap into that fear in the back of their minds? If you don’t know, how do you find out?


Learning your clients’ deeper needs takes some degree of insight. Odds are, they won’t put those needs into clear terms. After all, when we all eat at Olive Garden or shop for Nikes, we don’t think we’re looking for anything more profound than free breadsticks or a good cross-training shoe. 


But we are.

Here are some ideas for getting into your customer’s psyche and hashing out the fears and desires they don’t reveal directly.

  • Empathize. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. What would you fear most? What would you hope for? How would you want to feel after receiving service?
  • Examine the values of the demographic you serve. Do local property owners care more about the sentimental value or monetary value of their home or business? Who else benefits from their property (family, customers, etc.)? How does the buyer feel about these people?
  • What do your prospective clients say in their reviews of businesses like yours? What seems to make them feel most secure or appreciated? What makes them feel neglected?
  • What is the subtext of your own customers’ feedback? What might they really mean when they say that your technicians didn’t listen or that they feel more appreciated by your team than the Other Guy’s team?


I also recommend promoting a company culture that emphasizes open, regular communication. Design a system in which it’s easy for your techs to report back about each job—not just about the service they performed, but about how the customer responded to the personal and technical aspects of the service. Did they seem happy? Did they provide any type of valuable feedback? Did they care about the extra services you added because you thought it would make their lives easier? Did they express any wishes that your company offered other services or add-ons?


If you’ve grown your business to the extent that you are no longer taking the truck out personally, you must be able to get these types of details from your crew. That means creating a company culture of trust and support. Your team needs to know it’s safe and productive to discuss a bad client interaction as a growth opportunity. 


Now, let’s take a look at your customer’s practical needs.


Practical Needs


In theory, identifying practical needs is easier than identifying deeper needs. But it’s still a process that requires some critical thinking.


You may think of your customer’s practical needs as the service you perform. They need a mold inspection. Or they need carpet removal. That kind of thing.


But remember: your goal is to stand out. In order to do that, you have to think about the pain points no one else is addressing. Most likely, the problem that led your buyer to search for your services is a problem that affects more than their property. 


As an example, think about a homeowner who calls 911 Restoration for help after a pipe burst. The big, obvious problem is that their property is flooded and now they’re vulnerable to structural damage. They need drying out services and they need them quickly.


But if we widen our view a bit, we can see that this issue creates additional problems for the client, such as:

  • They have to rearrange their schedule to deal with this problem.
  • They may have lost valuable personal belongings.
  • They may be scrambling to protect items standing in harm’s way.
  • They are about to lose more time trying to make sense of their insurance and filing a claim.
  • Depending on the extent of the damage, they may have to find a place to stay for a few days while our technicians fully repair their property.
  • Their insurance doesn’t cover everything they need to make their home new again, and now they have to make some challenging financial decisions.


For our commercial property owners, the list grows even longer.

  • They have to close their doors until the damage is repaired.
  • The client has to find a way to make up that lost revenue.
  • They have to ensure their property is up to code after this disaster.
  • Etc.


When you look at the more expansive needs of your client, you are better equipped to prove that you really do understand their situation. You care. You anticipate their questions and you’re ready with solutions.


Take a moment to look at the wide-angle view of your customer’s predicament. List all the practical needs they have. Then, write down services you provide to ease their burden. If you can’t think of any, create new ones. You’d be surprised what a big impact you can have with one small adjustment. You can’t go back in time and rescue the antique clock your customer lost in the flood. But you can offer to walk them through loss itemization. Even that simple gesture tells the client, “We understand what you’re going through, and we’re going to make sure you don’t have to go through it alone.”


So you’ve identified the deeper needs and practical needs that your team covers. Now, how do you communicate these ideas to your customer?


Ready to read on? Find the book here.

Created: 10th May 2021