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What do customers want – and how do you know?

Whirlpool, realizing that many people eat in their cars and in front of their TVs, may someday market refrigerated compartments in dashboards or armchairs as they focus on “the eating experience.” To enhance your marketing, focus on the experience that customers want most from using your products or services.

In “Brand Relevance,” author David Aaker describes a changing desire in the Japanese beer market. “The leader’s strength, Kirin, was based on its heritage and reputation as a superior lager and the first choice of previous generations. Asahi saw that the emerging youth market was concerned with being cool and infatuated with Western products. Asahi introduced a new product subcategory called dry beer and turned Kirin’s strength into a significant weakness.”

What do your customers want to experience? Hershey’s Chocolate World stages an experience through museum and production tours as does the Crayola Factory Museum. Merchant Direct helps merchants focus on their core business, by processing payments and ships microbrewed beer to people who sign up for such merchant programs as the “Beer Across America Club.”’

What would you do differently if you charged admission? At The Sharper Image, which filed for bankruptcy in 2008, customers who seldom bought anything played with the latest gadgets, stretched out in massage chairs and listened to audio equipment. If you run an exercise equipment outlet, why not stage a stair climbing contest and charge admission rather than just letting browsers use the latest equipment for free?

How else might you capture greater revenue from an experience you already provide? The Wall Street Journal reported that a British nightclub, with revenues of $40 million, realized only $6 million from traffic at the club. The rest came from memorabilia sales. Don’t judge what your customers may want and would be very happy to pay for. Ask!

Nobody would pay $2,000 for a washing machine! But Dan Hill, author of “Emotionomics” says, “Whirlpool’s upscale Duet retails for three times the price of the average washer-dryer and, with its innovative European style has sold very well. The category has grown by 9 percent; the market for premium goods has surpassed 400 billion in the U.S. and is expected to grow about 15 percent a year.”

Hill, a recognized marketing authority whose work was mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling business book “Blink” asks, “What appeals most to your customer?” A car advertising agency found that although customers told them of their concern for the environment, if it came to either protecting the environment or their family, family came first. The agency featured safety in their ads rather than going green.

Progressive Insurance changed the customer experience by equipping vans with a personal computer, satellite uplink, and everything else needed to resolve a claim at the accident site. The customer’s specific needs were met as they received not just a check, but a cup of coffee while they relaxed in the van, called their family, or arranged for a ride.

So what do your customers want and how can you know? Marketers say that desires are changing and moving upstream. Although only a small portion of the marketplace may be willing to pay $2,000 for a washing machine, most are willing to pay at least a little more for an experience they crave. Ask customers and watch them to discover what their desired experience is and then grow your market share by filling it.

Questions for discussion:

  • Are our customers moving up market? If so how can we?
  • Do we really know what our customers want, or do we just think we know?

Joe Murtagh, The DreamSpeaker, is an international motivational speaker, meeting facilitator and business trainer. For questions or comments, email Joe@TheDreamSpeaker.com, visit TheDreamSpeaker.com or call (800) 239-0058.

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