What do my customers want?

This is definitely the wrong question.

You know you’ve done something right when people line up to get hold of your product. It may be due to hype, an emotional connection, or only a charismatic CEO.

Well, not all products can have an emotional connection. When was the last time you stepped onto an aircraft and got that intense feeling? So, therefore, they rely on loyalty programs. On the other hand, accumulating points may stimulate your ego.

When selling toothpaste, you need to appeal to the unconscious mind because this choice is made unconsciously.

Bottom line: If your product and service make a conscious statement about values or identity, habits may become an emotional connection. How I can connect with my customers is a much better approach.

Remember, consumers, think fast.

Buying the market-leading product is simply the easiest thing to do because it is there, right in front of you. It dominates the space. Every time you purchase this product, it becomes slightly harder to select the competition. Because your brain’s neural network becomes more efficient in identifying the stuff you like, it follows the law of least effort.

Of course, this is only true if the service and product fulfill their promise. Remember, the value proposition is still relevant. People must have a reason to buy your product. But the more you have a specific product experience over another, the cumulative advantage takes hold. And in the end, the customer choice is turned into a customer habit.

However, be mindful when you relaunch, repackage or replatform. You don’t want to disturb the habits that count in your favor. After all, you are applying a slow-thinking process to a fast-thinking environment. 

Of course, change is essential to stay relevant. In this case, take your customers by the hand when they need to make a transition. Do it cautiously. Maybe, just maybe, they will be impressed.

Bottom line: “Laziness is built deep into our nature.” and “Familiarity breeds liking.” ― Daniel Kahneman

The upside of disloyalty.

You don’t necessarily have loyal customers if you dominate a specific market segment. Instead, they buy your product because it is maybe cheap, recognizable, and easy to get. In other words, your marketing strengthens the habit of your customers to buy your products. However, if you look closely, you will notice that your customers may jump the ship quite often.

With a distinctive value proposition, a niche product usually only has a minuscule market share. One might expect that these customers are mostly repeat buyers and won’t bother with another product. Call them fanatics. However, that may only be true for a fraction of the time. The fact is, big brand disloyalty is just enough to keep the smaller ones in business. Customers know there’s always something better out there, and they need to try it now and then. 

We forget that, per definition, loyal customers refuse to buy another option although they understand that there’s always something more promising. It is the same with sport team supporters. So reward those that are loyal. Make them fanatics.

Bottom line: Customer disloyalty allows just enough customers to keep fringe brands in the business. When that happens, be ready to create a new habit.

Customer loyalty, beware of change.

Buying your favorite toothpaste is all about habit. You know the look, feeling, smell, taste, and the result. But, more importantly, you know where to find it on the shelf. It is available and accessible. So, as long as the toothpaste producer delivers on their promise, why change?

The goal is to make the buying experience effortless. The clever marketers see it as reducing the friction that may come in the way of the user. So, instead, enforce the habit.

Others believe that no competitive advantage is sustainable. It may be better to update your business model, strategy, and communication frequently. After all, you need to keep up with the ever-evolving environment to stay relevant. This assumption relies on the notion that customers make conscious and rational decisions based on available information. Well, Coke tried it once.

Maybe we are expecting too much of the brain. Research shows the brain love filling those gaps in incomplete pieces of information. We like making decisions because it feels right. The more you repeat a decision, the easier it becomes. 

Bottom line: If you want customers to return, focus on their habits. Never make a clear break with the past. Rather, concentrate on progression because the gap created may be too scary.

The mystery of jargon.

I love traveling. What I like the most about traveling is the discovery part. Uncovering new cultures, people, food, drinks, and different ways of doing ordinary stuff makes me tick. The trick is to assimilate. However, if you can’t speak the local language or dialect, you will stand out. The community will label you as a foreigner.

Years ago, I worked in the medical devices industry. More specific the cardiology sector. As with any specialized industry, it has its way of doing things. Let us call it a subculture that one needs to discover. Cardiologists have their way of communicating, their specific jargon. If you can’t speak the language, they will not invite you to the table. Luckily I am a fast learner. Some may call it fake it till you make it.

When looking at the start-up or entrepreneurial world, many may believe the same is true in this community. You will become an outcast if you don’t use words like agile, disruptive, or innovation. Furthermore, you won’t attract attention if you don’t use these words. Well, that is what the new kids on the block believe. 

Bottom line: Jargon is a trap. If you can’t back it up with action, you will become the emperor without clothes.

Assumptions, the downfall of success.

“TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it.” – from a 1939 editorial in the New York Times.

Every day, leaders make decisions. Some flourish while other falter. Often we are caught within a hype of an idea, making ourselves believe it is a game-changer. In a perfect world, information is complete, and we all can make accurate decisions. However, we know that this is seldom the case. 

Regardless of the amount of information we gather. In the end, we use assumptions to guide our perceptions. Sometimes, we like to take the credit when we are correct, but the blame game kicks in when we can’t repeat it. So how does it happen that we still get it wrong, even with all the evidence and the best advisors?

Steve Ballmer assumed that the iPhone would never gain significant market traction. Well, Apple’s engineers based the design of the initial iPhone on several assumptions. However, they had a clear and well-articulated vision of where they wanted to go with the device. In addition, the Apple leaders provided a clear framework for the employees to challenge the status quo.  

Bottom line: Every action we take, every result we desire, starts with a decision. Leaders can take either a short or long-term view.