To Be a Marketer, Think like a Customer

I had a refresher in the importance of thinking like a customer yesterday courtesy of my 22-year-old son, Chris. The inspiration for his lesson came from an unlikely location: the motor vehicle inspection station. We took his car for emission testing that is required before license plate renewal. Our arrival found that about 20 other people had the same idea. The wait itself was not unbearable, but it did give Chris time to pose a very valid question: Why is the emission testing location and tag renewal office not located together?

I had never given this any thought- the tag renewal office is downtown with other county services, while the emission testing center is a few miles away in an industrial area. Completing the two-step process is inconvenient, but I suppose that I have always tolerated it because it is a government agency, not a for-profit business. My son’s question came back to the forefront later in the day when I arrived at the County Clerk’s office at 4:01, or 1 minute after it closed. A return trip today would not have been necessary if tag renewal was a one-stop experience.

It goes without saying, or so it seems, that to be a good marketer means to be able to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. But, as the process of license plate renewal reminds us, a well-designed customer experience is often lacking. What are your customers’ needs? What are their problems? What challenges do they face? If you can answer these questions, could you not have the capability to better serve them?

It is tempting sometimes to think we know what is best for customers- after all, we are the “experts” at what we do. The true expert is your customer; learn from the experts and you will have an advantage over competitors that do not have the same mindset.