Friday, January 15, 2010

Customer Connections

Indulge me for a moment while I set up my point here.

I started competing in triathlons a year ago and in doing so, I joined the Mid MD Tri Club. Which, if anyone is doing triathlons knows this is the best group in MD! The club has been a great group for support and training, not to mention learning about the right equipment. At our most recent meeting (at Princeton Sports - one of our great club sponsors), we were treated to a presentation by Mark Monnett, the region's Zipp wheels distributor. For those of you who don't know anything about Zipp wheels, they are the top of the line when it comes to wheels for bicyclists and triathletes. Not only are they the best wheels, but also the some of the most expensive. Those two usually go together - the old "you get what you pay for" rule. But that isn't a bad thing by any means.

After the presentation, when I finally stopped ooh'ing & ahh'ing over the wheels, I started thinking about it from a branding perspective. The presentation was exciting because of the product, the cool design, and how light-weight it is. But the talk was also very technical–talking about materials, shapes, dimples, watts… Are we triathletes interested in all that stuff? To a point, but what we really care about is posting faster times, and making sure we have the energy to do so. Now as someone who is in his target audience, he didn't fully have a customer connection with me until he started putting the technology in a perspective that any triathlete could understand - how much energy I would save (I think it was approximately 700 calories in a 1/2 Ironman distance) in the bike portion of the race by using these wheels. Since I started competing, I've learned how much energy it takes and how much nutrition you need to intake during a race in order to keep your energy level up. This type of information completely "wowed me" and the connection was made. Why? Because he "spoke to me". By that I mean, he put it in terms that are important to me, not ones that are important to the manufacturer or a different audience group.

As marketers, we all need to find that connection with our customers. The one bit of information that is more important than all others. The one bit of information that says "we completely understand your needs because we have the same needs".

So how do you do this - understand your target audience I mean? In Mark's case, he understands because he is the target audience. If you don't have that option, then what do you do? You research, interview, listen to social media, survey… anything and everything you can to find out what is important to your customers. Only then can you make that connection that will create new customers and keep your existing ones. Plus, (the big added bonus here) once that is done, this type of connection will begin to spread on it's own, creating the kind of marketing every company is looking for these days–customer driven and free.

What customer connection has your brand made lately? What was the outcome of such a connection. The Brand Man wants to hear your story.

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