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October 21, 2013

Are You Trainable?

Samantha.jpgA few years ago, we decided to add a second pet to our family. My husband was vying for a hunting dog – one, he said, that would provide a little more value than our current pet – the fluffy white dog that sat on our laps most of the time. I caved, and we connected with a well-known breeder of Brittany Spaniels. Beautiful and sleek, these dogs are known for their ability to point and retrieve, and when trained right, can become faithful hunting dogs.

That’s where we went wrong. Instead of training her, she trained us.

Our lackluster attempts to get her professionally trained as an obedient hunting dog turned her into something quite the opposite. This dog, Samantha, a.k.a. “Sam”, has no idea that she’s supposed to point and fetch. Instead, she plops her big paws on our shoulders to greet us when we come home, curls up in a ball by my feet when I’m working on the computer, and rests her head in our kids’ laps when they are sitting at the table. She’ll look up at you with those beautiful, sweet eyes as if to say, “I could have been a noble and faithful hunting dog, but I trained you well. Now I’m just part of the family.”

While I have no problem with the way our dog coexists with our family, it got me thinking about how we as marketers need to pay attention to the ways our prospects are “training” us. Working in the marketing discipline for over 20 years, I think about this a lot in different contexts, including how customers’ buying habits are affected by the messages we post, tweet, and otherwise announce, what keeps them coming back – and what pushes them away.

Our customers and prospects train us every day, and paying attention to how they want to be interacted with could mean the difference between keeping a customer and losing them.

That’s when implementing a sound communications strategy comes into play. Here are a few things to consider when determining and executing your company’s communication plan:

  • What is your company’s mission and vision? If you know it and understand it, and your employees know and exemplify it, your prospects and customers will be clear about who you are and what you stand for. If you’re not, your message becomes confusing and irrelevant.
  • How does your target audience get its information? If you are tweeting and posting on Facebook, and your target audience is clicking on Web ads and responding to email campaigns, you’ve missed the boat. Ask current customers and desired prospects how they make buying decisions – and then communicate in a way that mirrors those patterns.
  • What resonates with your audience? The only way you can know the answer to this question is by measuring results. Looking at click-through rates on email campaigns, extrapolating a customer’s likes and dislikes based on buying patterns and asking for feedback are ways to get a handle on a prospect’s buying preferences.

Our customers and prospects show us how to interact with them every day. Let’s pay attention! If your prospect prefers email or is an avid Twitter follower, or buys only when there’s a full moon, tailor your communications model to fit their patterns and habits. Then, you, too, will be fully trained to meet your customers where they are, and wildly successful for having done so!

0d9e662Cindy Skerjanec is Marketing Director for Impact Marketing Communications and utilizes her 20+ years’ experience to help companies achieve greatness through solid marketing planning and execution. She is also a business coach and speaks to various groups and organizations about marketing, starting up a business and exceeding personal expectations through purposeful planning. She lives with her husband, two children and two dogs in Brighton, Colorado and may be reached at cindys@impactcom.net.

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