Before launching their current healthcare business, this client ran a successful clinic helping people shed significant amounts of weight through gastric bands.
In order to attract relevant traffic to his site, he ran an online forum for people to air their concerns about the surgery. Hundreds of people left comments each day.
“Can you guess the Number One worry that they expressed?” he asked me.
“Does the surgery ever fail – is it possible to regain all the weight?” I ventured.
“Will I end up with sagging skin? Will I ever be able to enjoy food again?”
The most frequently expressed concern, it emerged, was….. “Can I wear my own underwear on the operating table?” ….Nope. I’d never have guessed in a million years, either!
And that’s a really important marketing lesson.
When you market online, you really have to know your audience inside-out. They won’t click on your ads or read your blogs – let alone buy from you – unless you can grab their attention, show exactly how you can help them, and really make them feel you can solve their problems.
Yet all too often, we make assumptions about what really matters to our audience. Assumptions that are often just plain wrong, and at other times, simply don’t get to the root of the issues.
We tend to believe that clients are logical. That the issues that they care about most are sensible and predictable – like, in the gastric band example, whether anyone will be able to tell they’ve had a procedure, or whether the clinic is regulated.
Sometimes we’ve just been in the business so long that we imagine we know what our clients are thinking, while in reality, we’re still just assuming.
But ultimately we’re all emotional creatures. So while our clients undoubtedly do want to know all the “obvious” things, some of their deepest motivators are likely to be messy, deeply personal, and above all have more to do with how they feel than what they think.
They want to know whether they can wear underwear during surgery…….
It’s virtually impossible to imagine those issues by yourself, without hearing directly from your clients.
I’ve found that even clients who think they know their audience very well are shocked by what they discover when they do real market research, asking simple questions like:
- “What prompted you to seek our services?”
- “What did you want to achieve when you hired us?”
- “What would have happened to your company if you didn’t take action?”
- “Why did you pick us over the competition?”
They rarely get the answers they expect.
So don’t cut corners. If you can’t afford ‘formal’ market research, talk to your client-facing staff, who will know your customers best. Find out what questions they get asked repeatedly.
Do a phone survey of past and current clients. While you’re at it, phone people you quoted who didn’t buy from you. Find out why, and what they chose instead.
Like the former owner of the gastric band clinics, look closely at online forums and use social media to eavesdrop on the conversations your potential clients are having on the web. Because they are talking their peers, many people are very honest online, and this will give you unbelievable insight into what’s really worrying them.
And pay close attention to the content your audience shows an interest in. Their behaviour – more than what they tell you – is a terrific indication of what they really want to know about.
Just don’t rely on your intuition alone to understand your audience. It can be misleading, and take your marketing in entirely the wrong direction.
You don’t want to base your SEO campaign around credit cards and payment plans, when your customers are really worried about underwear :- )