In the days before e-commerce, marketers could — to some extent — rely on physical cues to get into the minds of their customers. After all, humans are hard-wired to make calculated assumptions based on things like body language.
Great marketers and salespeople have been doing that (and doing it well) throughout history — in essence, reading their customers' minds.
As the study of behavioral economics progressed, resourceful marketers were able to use the insights they gained to understand how buying decisions are made and to explore the mechanisms that drive customer choice.
E-Commerce Changes the Game
However, with the advent of online shopping and widespread mobile usage, the customer journey has evolved yet again, and marketing strategy must evolve along with it.
So, absent the physical cues which marketers have relied on, and in the wake of a sales process that often incorporates a degree of physical separation that did not exist in previous decades, is it still possible to read your customer's mind?
The simple answer is "yes." Using inbound marketing strategy and even marketing automation, you can get a handle on what your customers are thinking.
That is not to say that you will develop psychic ability, but inbound marketing does offer up several opportunities for gaining true insight into the thought processes of your customers.
The Advantages of Anticipation
The most effective marketing does not simply respond to customers' needs — it anticipates them.
Consider what you already know about your customer. If they have come to your website, they need something.
That is the most powerful bit of information you can acquire about your customer, because it is the foundation upon which your marketing strategy is built. The rest of the process, even if they are just visiting your website for the first time, involves comprehending their need — even if they cannot clearly communicate it — and working together with them to satisfy the need.
Entrepreneur's "Your Customer's 'Why' is More Important than Their 'Want'" makes a strong point in this regard, noting that understanding why your customer has come to you is a larger part of the puzzle than what the customer wants.
The article illustrates the concept this way: "Suppose I am selling cars. I can ask about price, model, [new condition versus used condition], color, features, financing options, etc. Or I can seek to determine why the customer is looking for a car in the first place. When I answer that why question, the what questions will fall into place."
The simple truth is that not all customers know exactly what they want when they come to your website. They know the problem they have, but the solution may be up in the air.
The job of marketers is to figure out the problems, the pain points, the things that keep their target audience up at night, and present innovative solutions to them.
How to Read Your Customers' Minds in Five Easy Steps
Fortunately, there are tools that you can use to get into the minds of your target audience more effectively. Here are a few:
1) Talk to them.
Though your interactions with your customer may not be face-to-face as they were in years past, there are abundant methods of communication still available to you. You can reach your customers by:
- phone and text messages/messaging apps
- comments on social media platforms and industry forums
- your website blog
These are just a few of the ways to communicate in the modern world. Marketing automation tools make this process even simpler.
The advantage to these methods is that you can maintain a steady stream of communication throughout the customer lifecycle, which gives you more insight into the thoughts and desires of your customer base over time.
2) Use analytics.
Studying the data mined from website analytics helps you divine the thought processes of your customers. You learn which landing pages are most effective at prompting conversion, how often a customer visits your site before conversion, and so on.
The more you learn about buyer behavior in this way, the more targeted your marketing message becomes. Like a heat-seeking missile, you will hone in on what your customer needs and address that need more efficiently.
3) Talk to your front-facing employees.
Your customer service reps are a veritable goldmine of actionable intel about your customers. Bill Gates said: "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."
Ask any customer service rep and they will tell you that an unhappy customer is all too willing to expound on the exact reasons for his or her displeasure. Use this window into the customer mindset to inform future marketing decisions.
4) Eavesdrop on your customers via social media.
Entrepreneur's "10 Ways to Get Into Your Customers' Heads Beyond Creating Buyer Personas" sums it up this way: "You can use the Internet to eavesdrop on customer conversations. Use Twitter search to hear any conversations about your business or that of competitors. Ask questions on social media, forums and Q&A sites such as Quora."
"Visit other people's social-media profiles to gauge buying interests. Join conversations happening in blog comments sections. Do research on what keywords people are using to find things in your niche. Use Google Trends to spot what's popular.
"Basically, do whatever it takes to find out what exactly your target customers are up to online in order to get inside their heads."
5) Become your customer.
No, this is not a zen thing. It simply means that you should occasionally take your website for a test spin, as if you were a customer coming to it for the first time.
While this may be difficult to do, detaching from your marketing efforts for a moment and putting yourself in the customer's seat will yield valuable insights.
The Bottom Line
If mind reading is not in your skill set, there is no reason to worry. You can use inbound marketing tools, including marketing automation, to get into the minds of your customers. Leveraging the power of social media, keeping an eye on your marketing analytics, and keeping in touch with your target audience and your customer service reps will give you a clear read on your customers.
Need some help with your inbound marketing strategy? Contact us for a free assessment and let us help you find ways to get into the mindset of your customers today.