Customer Needs, How to Make the Invisible Visible

Companies are in denial about what drives a sale in their business. Like the Emperor in the famous tale, so many brands are basing their strategies around the invisible, then casting reasons of failure to the external forces for which they have no control over. It’s a common pattern in business and it’s no wonder that globally, customer engagement is at an all-time low.

Like the Emperor’s invisible clothing, big and small brands regularly get caught up in vanity projects rather than invest the time to better research and understand their customers. You think you are focusing on your customer’s needs when you consider historical sales, creative execution and demographic profile. While these factors do have an influence, they do not address the true needs. Correctly used, the word need, means that without it there will be a clear adverse result. Companies need to take a deeper look into their customers.

High street brands that filed for bankruptcy in 2017 include Toys R Us, BCBG Max Azria, RadioShack, Payless Shoes, Gymboree, True Religion, and Aerosoles. According to CNBC, reasons are due to changing consumer tastes, shopping behaviour and the need for speed. There’s that word again, used accurately. Customers’ need faster delivery and responsive action and that is driving them away from traditional retailers.

Unless you are dealing with commodity products, your customers are buying on emotion not rational thinking. Understanding how your product or service is linked to a deeper psychological need is becoming more and more critical as a requirement to deliver revenue targets. The famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow, classified all human needs into a hierarchy from the most basic being physiological to safety, love/belonging, esteem and at the top self-actualisation. This is a valuable tool to find a deeper insight on your customer’s motivation.

Even more damaging to your strategy formation, is relying on fads and trends instead of commercially sound advice. The weavers were easily able to sway the Emperor, taking advantage of his pride and vanity. Motivation is the invisible key factor in decision-making. As customer weigh up their purchase decision, the ripples in their subconscious must resonate with their true human needs in order for them to choose your brand. The trouble is that when you’re forming your commercial strategies, you believe that you are also being rational, when, in fact, you are influenced by your own invisible motivational drivers including pride, insecurities personal values and cultural beliefs.

The Emperor’s subjects were fearful of him, also playing along with the charade. Take a hard look at your employee behaviour as well as the experience from your customers perspective. When your culture is one of strictness with power given to the top management and it’s hard work to deliver good customer service because your policies are too rigid, you need to urgently address the invisible.

Peter Drucker quite rightly said “What gets measured, gets managed.” You cannot measure nor manage the invisible. There will always be external market forces beyond your control. Inside the business is a set of dynamics that are within your control. Involve everyone to make the hidden transparent. Determine your successful outcomes and collective design actions for change.  

It took a child in the tale, to state the obvious. It can be that simple to see the visible. Get your staff on board, make plans to identify your customers’ needs and take the required action to meet them. Many famous big brands started during recessions include Burger King (1954), Fedex (1973), Microsoft (1975), MTV (1981) and Wikipedia (2001). Many more boosted their market positions in the early 2000’s during the downturn including Google, Paypal and Saleforce.

It takes courage to admit where you have acted like the Emperor in your business. The sooner you choose to be candid about the invisible, the sooner you can make your brand a success story.

References:

  1. Lauren Thomas, Here Are The Retailers That Have Filed For Bankruptcy Protection In 2017, CNBC, 2017, retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/23/here-are-the-retailers-that-filed-for-bankruptcy-protection-in-2017.html
  2. Sarah Caron, 14 Big Businesses That Started In A Recession, IT Toolbox, 2009, retrieved from https://it.toolbox.com/blogs/inside-crm/14-big-businesses-that-started-in-a-recession-100109