It’s 2017: Have you finally figured out what your customers want from you?
You might be surprised to know that what modern consumers want has very little to do with the products and services they buy from you.
Rather, it’s more to do with how you make them feel when they do business with you – and long after they leave your website.
Wantedness is a fairly new concept currently being pioneered by marketers. By definition, ‘wantedness’ is the ability for brands to adapt themselves to customers’ needs in order to show they want their business. In essence, companies that understand their customers’ needs and can communicate how they’re meeting those needs are more likely to achieve loyalty – and bigger market share.
The question is: How badly do you want your customers’ business, and what are you willing to do to earn it?
Customers Know They’re Needed – Now, They Need to Feel Wanted
Recent studies show that 80% of companies believe they are delivering superior service to their audience, but only 8% of customers surveyed agreed that these same companies live up to their expectations.
That’s a huge gap, and one that can be filled by adapting to what your customers need and want from you.
Customers are faced with more choices now than ever before, which hasn’t made easy work for marketers.
Marketers across industries have realized the importance of making their brand stand out from their competition, and have turned to creativity and innovation to help. They’re focused intently on doing things differently than others ( or at least trying to stay on par with their competitors) to attract more customers. Once they have the recognition, they’re banking that all eyes will be on them, a new viral sensation that shows just how “different” they really are.
But there’s one key missing from this seemingly epic strategy: does innovation and creativity give customers what they want?
In many cases, the answer is no.
Consider Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water that failed to engage its beer drinkers. Remember how Coca-Cola infuriated its loyal customer base when it tried to create a new formula that tasted more like Pepsi. Look at McDonald’s Arch Deluxe that didn’t bring in the high-end clientele the inexpensive fast food restaurant hoped for.
None of these efforts gave their customers what they truly wanted from the company. Unsurprisingly, these products now exist only in internet archives.
There’s an ongoing battle for companies to prove themselves better than their competitors, and they’re taking risks and investing millions to rise above the lookalikes.
But McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Coors, and other companies with failed innovations have already learned: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Nurturing Wantedness Through Active Marketing
You might be thinking, “I already let my customers know I appreciate them.” You say “Thank You” after a transaction, either in person or via a confirmation email. You hold Customer Appreciation sales, offer a Loyalty Club, or reward your referrals. You email your customers letting them know about special buys or pricing.
That’s Marketing 101.
But what you didn’t learn in college is that while these things are all generally appreciated by your customers, they’re nothing more than par for the course and do very little to differentiate your brand. Moreover, they don’t reflect the heart and soul of what your customers actually need from you.
Sure, you might offer a good selection of practical products that everyone uses, or a high-end line of fashion that those with deep pockets simply can’t resist. Guess what? You’re not the only place your buyers can get those things, no matter how unique or necessary you think your products are.
As long as word of mouth and the internet exist, there will always be companies trying to one-up their competitors by offering me-too products and services that capitalize on your brilliant ideas.
Gimmicks may get you sales, but only building value through wantedness will earn you relationships. And those relationships are what will continue to drive your company’s profits, even after your competitors begin to steal pages from your marketing playbook.
So what’s a marketer to do?
Your best bet is to stop focusing on being different for differentiation’s sake and start innovating to meet your customers’ needs in ways that work for them.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Continually Collect Insights About Individuals
Wunderman’s pioneering study on wantedness noted that 79% of US consumers favored brands that prove they know about them and their needs. If you want to be one of the best, you’ll need to get to know your customers outside of their standard demographic data and learn about individuals.
Who are they? What problems do they encounter that you could help solve? How do they spend their time? How do they prefer to communicate?
This might mean going against whatever you’ve outlined in black-and-white policy and looking at customer wants on a case-by-case basis. Zappos.com is the king of this, as their customer success stories have often displayed (like the time an employee purchased a plane ticket to deliver a mistakenly returned order).
The more you learn about your customers, the better positioned you are to create a unique experience just for them, even if it means doing something you’ve never done before.
Place Insights into Context
Before the digital revolution of the past few years, marketing was mostly a passive activity: you placed an ad in a directory, or set up social media pages and left them to rot.
Now, marketing messages are constantly evolving because their audiences evolve. Social media marketing is a daily activity, either by posting fresh content or deriving new visitor insights. One-dimensional feedback surveys are being replaced by companies are reaching out on social media or via email or text to personalize the experience. Geographical information is being used to highlight products, sales, and prices in your area, including the location of the nearest brick-and-mortar spot where you can find the items being advertised.
As a result, strategies are continually refined to ensure companies are delivering on customer needs faster than their competitors are. Marketing has shifted away from changing your customer’s behaviors and perceptions to match those of your company. Instead, the era of wantedness has ushered in the need for companies to change their own behaviors and perceptions to match those of their customers.
Collecting and using new insights about your customer base, you are better able to tailor new and existing products and services to fill real needs, not just the ones you think exist. In doing so, you might just avoid becoming the next Arch Deluxe.
Fostering the wantedness culture isn’t a one-and-done deal for marketers. Even the biggest brands like Amazon, Netflix, and Target are continually reminding us why they’re better than the rest, and they do so by showing us, not just saying so.
Surviving the wantedness era takes daily effort to become better than average. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries. Just make sure those boundaries are worth breaking through for your customers’ sake.