At this very moment, all across the world, marketers and sales people are feeling a sense of accomplishment because they have delivered messages to their customers.

Communicating messages to your customers is one of the key tasks of sales and marketing. But it doesn’t mean the job is done.

One of the most basic principles of branding, as practiced at Yastrow and Company, is that your brand is not what you say it is, but is what your customers think you are. And there is often a large gap between what a company says about itself and what its customers think.

Unfortunately, most companies don’t know what their customers think about them. Sure, they have a general idea, based on day-to-day contacts with customers. But they don’t know enough.

This summer has been a time filled with market research projects at Yastrow and Company. We’ve done in-depth interviews with the customers of many clients, and it’s been very interesting to see what we have learned. In every case, we have discovered interesting facets and nuances of customers’ opinions that have helped our clients and us understand new insights about how customers feel and think.  These insights go well beyond “they rate us a 4.2 on service” or “91% of our customers are willing to refer us.” We have gained insights in to both the minds and hearts of people, discerning what really matters and motivates these customers.

Do you know what your customers think about you?

Learning what and how your customers think

In workshops I often ask attendees if they do research to understand how their customer think.  Usually only 5 – 10% raise their hands, and most of those are doing some sort of basic quantitative survey. Rare is the executive who is doing the kind of research I will recommend below to help you understand what your brand is like in the minds of your customers.

Surveys have their place, and may tell you what customers think about a particular issue, but they don’t tell you why they think it.  Also, a survey imposes an order on the questioning, so you can’t learn what customers think of first when they think of you, which often indicates what is most important to them.

We have found that the best insights into what customers think about your brand come from qualitative research, in the form of one-on-one interviews with customers. Customers have a chance to articulate their feelings, and the researcher has an opportunity to gain insights into those feelings and into the frames of reference the customer uses to organize his or her thoughts about the brand. Also, this kind of research, when properly conducted, can give you a glimpse into the “unarticulated demand” that exists for your offerings, i.e., the things customers don’t know they want but would love if they had them.

Are you doing this kind of research? If not, are you confident you know what your customers are thinking about you – right now?

Consider this: If you don’t know what customers think about you, you don’t know what your brand is. And if you don’t know what your brand is, your abilities to improve your brand are limited. Make it a priority to conduct in-depth research, giving yourself an important view into the hearts and minds of your customers.

Your bottom line will thank you.


1 Comment

  • Phil Hauck
    Sep 22, 2015 - 12:05 pm

    Steve, I appreciate your blog very much … BUT, including an actual example from your experience increases the value of each one by multiples. You don’t have to identify the client, and you can fudge the example … but give us practicality. Makes it much more valuable/useful!

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