You’re Not Your Customer

In previous posts, I’ve discussed using timely content to stay relevant and I’ve also touched on keeping your audience in mind while you’re giving a presentation. But this week, two interesting (and humorous) comics crossed my desk that I thought made an interesting point about the best way to think about the content you publish, the language you use, and the way you market your brand overall. The first one is from an old xkcd comic (which, if you don’t already read regularly, I highly recommend):

This is one of those “funny because it’s true” scenarios. Whether it’s designing a homepage, picking articles to tweet, publishing content, or writing a blog post, you have to keep your audience and their needs in mind. Steve Jobs was famous for saying that he didn’t do market research because his consumers didn’t know what they wanted until he’d shown it to them. Unfortunately for us, we’re not all the most influential visionaries of the 20th century and market research is a great way to know what your audience wants more of, can do without, or wants done differently. If we’re talking about your social media, there are plenty of ways to use your engagement data to see how your content is performing, without explicitly asking the user. Regardless of how you make and monitor these decisions, remember that any content you publish form your homepage to your Twitter feed is not for you, it’s for your consumer and it should satisfy their needs above your own.

The next comic I grabbed from Facebook and unfortunately I don’t know where it’s from (if you do, please share) is this:







This one I really found funny because I had never thought of this situation, but it really is true; conveniently enough, it also applies to this topic. You’re on the inside of your company looking out. From where you sit, the perspective is very, very different than someone who is on the outside looking in. And no matter how in touch you think you are with the market and what it wants, you’ll never have the same perspective as the average consumer. Simply put: You’re not your customer. You are too close, too invested, and too well-informed to ever be able to think critically about your brand and your competition the way your average user does. A quick example: I was working with a nonprofit organization who was optimizing their online donation forms. The form at present required you to fill out first and last name, email, phone number, billing address, and your credit card information. Everyone hates filling out forms, right? So the organization cut the address and phone number from the form, leaving only first and last name, email, and credit card information. Their logic was that if you lower the barriers to complete the form and shorten the process, people will be more inclined to give. The test failed horribly. Not only did their number of donations drop dramatically, but their bounce rate spiked, and the average donation fell as well. Their research later showed that people were off-put by the simplicity, they felt it was a scam, or that not filling in enough information made them more vulnerable to fraud.

The moral of the story: Don’t assume you know what your customer wants. Your customer knows what they want. So ask, test, analyze, and adjust to make sure that your homepage, website navigation, social media content, e-commerce store, and all other parts of your online presence are giving you the best possible results.

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