Modern marketing has developed from the original product-centric type into a customer-centric approach. Putting the customer in focus requires a deep understanding of not only your product’s features and benefits but advantages, too. This blog post is part of our Marketing Basics series.
Ticking The Right Product-Related Boxes
Most new entrepreneurs find it reasonably easy to say something about their product (or offering) itself and they try to close sales by emphasising features and benefits only.
Features And Benefits
Features are the “tech specs” of what is for sale such as product size, maintenance recommendations, or suitable age group. It doesn’t take much to create the foundation of a well-rounded product description in a webshop with the help of these. Your product info is the same regardless of customer.
- Example 1: Can your new electric car drive far enough on your business trips or would a hybrid serve you better? Or is it merely a comparison between two electric cars and their performance?
- Example 2: Does the hair salon use non-toxic products on your hair and skin?
Benefits are slightly more challenging, but still doable on the fly. Benefits dig deeper in that two customers may perceive different pros and cons of the product, depending on their circumstances.
- Example 1: Is the car a safe option for families? Or does it tick the boxes of a single, care-free person, hoping to attract short engagements with others? A small car may be beneficial to a person driving in urban locations whereas it would be a less safe option when frequently travelling with kids on motorways at high speeds.
- Example 2: Can you buy products to bring to your home spa or would you have to search online? To one person this has no relevance and to another it means saving time.
It goes without saying that all of the above are important in commerce when attracting customers. In your marketing it is easy to describe features, but thinking of benefits requires more knowledge about how your ideal customer thinks about their needs and wants.
When feeling stuck, try working with benefits for a while to record new ways to market your offerings: scratch wordings that feel outdated or irrelevant, tweak a bit the existing ones you are fairly happy about, and introduce new phrases to serve previously forgotten segments.
Humans are emotional creatures. Our at times excessive consumerism proves this, because as fully rational beings we would stop once our various needs have been fulfilled. Wants on the other hand are bought for a multitude of emotional reasons to fulfil dreams, aspirations if you will, in addition to adding something to our current lives.
Not only are advantages to the product perceived to be about ourselves on our own, but they are meant to project an image to the outside world.
- Example 1: Will the car project an image of current or aspirational success?
- Example 2: When posting a photo of a new haircut in social media, will it project an image of caring about personal and planetary health if publicly connected to the hair-salon brand?
Moving From Product To Person
In order to evolve successfully from purely product-centric marketing to the modern variant that is customer-centric marketing, it is necessary to first understand what the features and benefits are. Trying to sell on hopes and dreams only hardly comes across as professional, but even in a customer-centric approach you should know when to present hard facts instead of painting pretty pictures of how the customer’s life could look.
If you are in the business of selling bulk goods, keep on talking about low prices and features. When trying to move in a direction of closer customer relations, however, inevitably you have to engage actively with your customers. Instead of the customer being a passive party, they start taking an active role in the relationship.
This can include analysing their purchase behaviour to tailor offers that only they will receive, and encouraging product development based on a dialogue via email or direct messaging. Individualised sales developed based on previous purchases require intricate marketing automation, whereas a dialogue often takes place in email exchanges in response to newsletters you have crafted.
Customer-centric marketing evidently would be very challenging without digital marketing happening somewhere along the line.
It is hard to keep waxing lyrical about your offerings if you aren’t enthusiastic about them. Competition is fierce these days and just about anything can be bought online. Due to the pandemic it has even become necessary to act online, and if we ever reach a state where COVID-19 is demoted to endemic or declared over, people have conveniently shopped online for a long time by then.
In many cases it will be crucial to set yourself apart from the competition by showing that you truly understand what your customer needs or wants, and that you are attentive as well. Why should they buy from you when they may crave human interactions almost like oxygen then?
Customer centricity deepens customer relations and thereby potentially leads to the coveted state of customer loyalty. It often takes years to build the relationships, but once established they are far more valuable than their impersonal counterparts.
Please share in the comments where you are at in your own marketing journey!
This blog post is part of our beginner-level series Marketing Basics.
Photo credit: Pierre Bamin.