You are not your best customer

You are not your best customer

Photo courtesy of MSNBC.com

Photo courtesy of MSNBC.com

Last week I wrote about the importance of defining your best customer(s) and the influencers that send them your way. This is important when you’re defining an overall campaign and determining their hangouts. ( sorry for the pun, Google) There is, however, an insidious problem with many business owners when it comes to marketing messages, audiences and customers. If nothing else, here’s what I want you to remember. YOU ARE NOT YOUR BEST CUSTOMER.

Let me repeat that. YOU ARE NOT YOUR BEST CUSTOMER.

You may have been the best customer at one time, or  knew one really well. Or perhaps you  were an influencer. But the minute you decide to start your own business, or manage the business, you become biased. Here’s a great example:

I worked with a manager who had many, many years of experience in the healthcare industry. He knew his stuff but he also knew many doctors really well. This person would argue with me for days that a patient would never choose a doctor based on online information. Or that developing a personal relationship with a doctor outside of a practice would never  influence whether or not they saw that physician. Obviously, those of us outside the healthcare practice know this to be totally untrue. Most people today, according to many sources, check the ratings of doctors online. Although this person had years of inside experience in healthcare, it hurt him when deciding on marketing practices.

That may be an extreme example. But in my experience I’ve seen many, many instances where excellent marketing agencies get concepts shot down because the client could not get their own personal bias out of the way. Here are several of the most common scenarios:

  • You have too much industry knowledge. This is the example of our healthcare manager, and many in more scientific industries. Because you’ve seen the complexity of the business you  can’t believe that simple messages really work. Or you analyze them to death, leaving  a complicated, jargon-y mess in your wake.
  • You were once the customer yourself. I see this all the time with journalists who become PR people. They immediately shoot down pitches because THEY wouldn’t have responded to it. Or with business managers who move to the services industry. Everyone has a personal bias on how they buy. You can’t take that personal bias with you into the marketing world.
  • You share common characteristics with your best customer. This is often why people start businesses. You’ve seen a need and you want to fill it. But the minute you become a business owner you lose your objectivity. You simply know too much! I see this with moms who believe they understand exactly what other moms will respond to. If you watch Shark Tank enough, you’ll know this often falls flat. (Shark Tank fans, here’s a fun list of the show’s worst pitches of all time.)
  • Finally, you think your friends or acquaintances represent your best customer. Guess what – they’re even more biased because they like you and want you to succeed.  Or worse, they’re in marketing. I never give opinions on other marketing work. I don’t understand the context in which it was developed or the customers that are being targeted.

Here’s the deal. By developing personas that are true to your best customer (and are not YOU or your friends) you can test marketing messages without introducing your own bias. In this scenario sometimes it’s best to be wrong.

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