In Part 1 of this look at what customers want, I made the case that they want to buy a future set of feelings. To prove my point, I sent the willing reader to a grocery store to uncover for themselves how everyday products have deeper underlying meanings with emotional attachments. The logical mind does not want to believe in the emotional reality of our purchasing habits because admitting so triggers feelings of vulnerability and ego responses.
In this Part 2, we answer a “how” question. If customers only want a future set of feelings when they are buying things, how can we figure out what those desired feelings are?
What do customers want to feel?
Principle 1: You must know yourself
We all have subconscious and unconscious beliefs, habits, fears, and dreams. They drive most of our thinking and behavior. As marketers, we see, hear, interpret, analyze, and assess through the lens of this “stuff” that is bubbling constantly under our mental surface.
Want to become excellent at figuring out what customers really want?
Get yourself out of the way.
In other words, by becoming conscious of the engine that is under your own mental hood, you quickly clear the lens of how you see and understand other people.
Is this something you can do in one day or one week? No. Self-inquiry is a process that you start and never end – it takes a lifetime. That said, the fact that you choose to initiate a self-inquiry process instantly puts you into a mental position that you want to see and understand the world they way it is, not the way you think it is. If you are successful at making self-inquiry a daily habit, you actually reap the benefits in the first day and the very first week.
And as times goes by, you become more and more astute with your observations and understandings of human motivations and behavior.
Principle 2: You can’t ask people what they want to feel
Another survey a company wants me to complete. Uggghh…
Surveys don’t work if you are trying to get at what customers really want. Nor does simply asking customers in any form. Oh, asking customers their opinions is good for uncovering some feelings after they have interacted with your product or service. A survey can give you a sense of customer satisfaction. But asking customers cannot actually uncover their true purchase motivations.
Why? Because customers don’t know what they want. I mean this literally: They don’t know the real reasons they want something. By “know” I mean be able to clearly and in detail articulate the emotional underpinnings to their desires.
They think they know why and will defend their position vehemently if you were to press them or challenge them. But they generally can’t and won’t be able to give you the underlying reasons – the real reasons.
To give you the real reasons would be worse for them than stripping physically naked in front of you: It would be stripping emotionally naked in front of you. Most people are afraid to be physically naked in private and look at themselves in a mirror. How many people are strong enough to strip emotionally naked to you, a stranger, when stripping emotionally naked to themselves would be one of the most terrifying things they could do as a human being?
A ridiculous example to make my point:
Researcher: “So, what are the emotional reasons you want to buy the new iPhone?”
Customer: “I want an iPhone because I am afraid of being left behind. If I don’t get a new iPhone, my friends will think I am loser and no-one will like me anymore. Girls will think I am poor and I will end up lonely and worse: I won’t be part of the “normal” people at school. I fear this will lead to me becoming irrelevant and lost in social and work settings, leading to a life living without money or hope for the future. Belonging is extremely important to me, and if I don’t belong to what Apple and the iPhone represent, I will engage in negative habits and behaviors such as addictions, anger, sadness, and ultimately, self-destruction – I will die on the street as a beggar.”
While this is silly example, can you see that almost no-one in this world would allow themselves to uncover true feelings to themselves, much less openly to someone doing marketing research?
Principle 3: You must uncover true customer desires
So, if you can’t ask customers why they really want to buy something, how do you find out?
You have to uncover the deeper truths – the emotions customers desire to feel.
To uncover the truth, you need to use a lot more of yourself than just your logical, rational brain. You need to use a whole host of aspects, skills, and abilities in yourself, including emotional intelligence and some that are innate – they can’t be “learned”, but they can be developed.
Here is a summary PowerPoint slide I use in my MBA marketing course:
Uncovering the truth is a messy business.
It means observing and engaging with your customers and allowing yourself to see deeply into their lives, gaining insights from their lifestyle behaviors, purchasing habits, and thinking.
It takes time, effort, strength of will, and allowing your own vulnerabilities to be exposed.
It means creating a connection to your customer so they will open up to you.
Would you like to see a master at work, someone who isn’t afraid to delve into his own emotions as he figures out what people really want?
Mad Men: Don Draper and the Kodak Slide Carousel:
How do I build the skills and abilities to be like Don Draper?
The best marketers, as exemplified by Don Draper in Mad Men, must learn and develop more of themselves than simply their intellect.
Want to become like Don Draper? Start learning and developing the following:
1. About yourself (as noted earlier)
2. Emotional intelligence – how other people feel, and why.
3. The ability to feel emotions in yourself without pushing them down or getting overwhelmed.
4. The personal strength to interact openly with others so as to engage much more of yourself with them.
These are life skills, really. And perhaps engaging in life is the best way, if not the only way, to learn these.
As in Part 1, here is an exercise that can get you started on the path to expanding your skills and abilities in uncovering the truth about what people and customers really want.
1. Go to a coffee shop by yourself. Starbucks is a good one to begin with.
2. Order your drink and get a seat where you can observe the lineup and at the same time be near other people who are sitting and drinking and chatting.
3. Shut off your cell phone, shut off your laptop, remove your earphones, put down anything you are holding, and sit comfortably with your hands on your lap.
4. Feeling a bit naked and uncomfortable? Good! You are used to being with friends, holding something, and being “plugged in” to your electronics. Now you are alone, with no safety blanket and unplugged. You are a bit naked, no? Sit with this feeling for 5 minutes or so. What happens? Are people looking at you, pointing their fingers and whispering to each other?
No, of course not.
As you come to realize that you are OK just sitting there, you will also begin to notice that your discomfort levels rise and fall, depending on what thoughts flow through your mind. You may also notice that your mind tries to escape by going into stories, fantasies, or memories. Gently return your attention to the coffee shop when this happens.
5. Do a conscious observation: Watch how people enter the coffee shop and line up to buy their drinks. Watch how they stand in line, chat with each other, and how they interact with staff when it is their turn to order.
How do they behave? Where do they look? Do they seem comfortable or nervous? What patterns do you start to see emerging?
6. Do another conscious exercise: Listen to a conversation that is taking place near you. Of course you cannot watch the people as this would be socially unacceptable (staring), but you can listen in. Or can you? Do you feel uncomfortable doing this? Why?
As you listen, sit with any feelings that arise in you. Are they your feelings being triggered by what you hear, or are you simply picking up the feelings of the people who are conversing, just as you pick up the heat of the sun when it shines on your skin?
As you listen to the conversation, can you observe your mind picking up interesting patterns and insights? Can you hear your mind comparing what you are hearing to your own experience of life?
After 20-30 minutes of holding yourself separate from your habits and simply observing, you may find yourself getting mentally tired, emotionally upset , and even stressed. Or you may find yourself in a new and exciting state of being, similar to a meditative state. There is no right or wrong here of what you experience. Be gentle with yourself if you do find this hard. It takes practice to be by yourself and feel safe, strong, and open to hearing and experiencing the realities around you.
Question: How many times in the 20-30 minutes did you pick up your drink? Was it a habitual movement, a nervous reaction, or simply a desire for a drink? Be honest with yourself!
At the end of this exercise, walk out of the coffee shop and observe any feelings you have as you walk out. Relief? Exhilaration? Or feeling nothing?
Walk off the experience to clear your mind and emotions and reflect on what you learned.
Congratulations! You have practiced several skills and abilities that the best marketers have!
Are you ready and willing to do it again in another coffee shop?