February 11, 2019

How to Start Thinking Like Your Consumer

Dave Kerpen

Do you like being disrupted? Do you enjoy when you’re reading something online and a pop-up banner ad gets in the way of the next paragraph? What about when you’re working on a project at the office, the phone rings, and you answer to find a sales guy on the other end of the line trying to pitch his wares?

When I speak at conferences, I often tell my audiences to place themselves in the role of the consumer. I then ask, “How many of you listen to and enjoy radio commercials?”

No hands.

“How many of you watch and enjoy television commercials?”

A couple of hands usually come up at this point, and normally, upon further review, these people are, in fact, the professional ad guys.

“How many of you use and enjoy Instagram or another social network?”

Here, hands shoot up in the air, anywhere between 60 and 90 percent of the room. Is this because social media is the newest, shiniest product in town? I don’t think so. I believe it’s because people fundamentally want to use media to relax, enjoy themselves, and connect with others—not to be interrupted.

Here are a few marketing and advertising tools and methods that are available today. Placing yourself in the role of the consumer, think about how you feel when you receive or experience the following:

• Direct mail
• Magazine ads
• TV ads
• Radio ads
• Packaging (that is, “Free Toy Inside” on the cereal box)
• Flyers handed to you on the street
• Billboards off the highway
• Automated messages when you’re on hold, telling you to visit the company website
• Mobile and/or text messaging ads
• Ten minutes of ads before the trailers even start at the movie theater
• Emails constantly arriving in your inbox from marketing lists you don’t remember signing up for
• Telemarketing and cold-calling to your home and office

Advertisements and marketing ploys are found just about everywhere we go. From the television in our living room to the stall in the public bathroom, from a drive down the interstate to a walk through the city’s streets, from your phone line at work to your personal cell number: nowhere is safe from ads! And while some ads are funny, interesting, and even compelling—if you consider the consumer’s viewpoint, you’ll agree that most are simply disruptive and unwanted.

So what’s a marketer to do? How can you possibly avoid joining the endless parade of marketing and advertising disruptions in the quest to find your consumers? All you have to do is stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like your consumer.

Laura Fitton of HubSpot has a saying: “Your entire social media strategy can be summed up in two words: Be useful.” With every Facebook message you send out, with every Instagram Story or tweet you post, even with every email or radio and television advertisement you write, ask yourself the following:

• Will the recipients of this message truly find it of value, or will they find it annoying and disruptive?
• Would I want to receive this message as a consumer?

If you respond that yes, as a consumer, this message is of value and you would indeed want to receive it, then it is a message worth communicating to your customers and the world. On the other hand, if you cannot see any true value to the consumer or you believe the message will be only an annoyance, then it’s simply not worth sending. Why spend money, time, and effort only to contribute to mass advertising, marketing, and information noise that the consumer does not want or need in the first place?

Sure, even a poorly conceived message can generate some web traffic, phone calls, awareness, or even sales, but it can also erode your brand. In the long run, the organizations that will win are the organizations that engage in positive, useful communications with their customers and prospects. Today, the most effective way to do so is to utilize the tools offered by social media.

This is an excerpt from the new and expanded third edition of the New York Times bestseller Likeable Social Media. Want to learn more? Order your copy.

Tags: Consumer Insights, Creative, Facebook, Instagram, Strategy

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