The lost art of customer obsession.
Imagine a guy who’d never even consider buying a desk from IKEA. Let’s call him Erik.
Erik likes to eat local, seasonal foods, believes in the power of upcycling and always tries to be an informed, environmentally responsible consumer.
Erik doesn’t fall for flashy new features and sticks to his old phone while the rest of the world has moved on to the latest iPhone.
His grandfather was a carpenter and spending summer vacations pottering around the workshop, Erik learned to appreciate the craftsmanship of handmade furniture.
When Erik finally moved to a new city for school, he found that it was time to buy a new desk for his matchbox-sized student apartment.
But he was not going to settle for a Lagkapten like his classmates.
He spent hours scrolling through hundreds of listings on Facebook, Tori (a Finnish online marketplace) and visiting Salvation Army shops across the city.
But everything was either too big, too banged up or too IKEA.
Finally, he found one at the local recycling centre – hardwood, ornate, character for days, and handmade.
It checked all the boxes except one. Price.
At 500€ it was well over his budget. Erik was devastated.
After spending far more time furnishing a student apartment than anyone ever should, Erik purchased a small, non-descript, factory-made desk from a local furniture store.
It cost him 200€, and it came in birch white.
Every decision we make is a tradeoff.
We want to have things and behave in ways that help us realise our values and live our ideal selves.
But when it comes to buying stuff, our long-held values can be easily swayed by how much money, time, or energy can we spend on realising the benefit.
It’s not that we’re quick to ditch our long-held values.
No. Instead, we bend and modify the most flexible values to fit neatly with our most urgent needs and long held values.
Our life projects, current concerns, and feature preferences all play an essential role in deciding how to spend our time, energy, and money.
Take Erik, for example; he valued fine craftsmanship and avoiding waste.
Yet, his current life project (graduating school), current concerns (living on a limited budget), and feature preference (sturdy but cheap) had just as much, if not more, influence on his final decision.
Here’s what these terms mean:
Life projects: Our life projects are long term, but they change as we move into different phases of life.
Current concerns: It’s everything on our current To-Do list. These are the things you need to get done and often take priority above everything else.
Consumption intentions: Some marketers are satisfied using PowerBI. Others achieve the same results (or better) with Tableau. Consumption intentions are the sub-goals that we aim to accomplish with our purchase.
Sticking to the same example: Your current marketing stack might be the reason you decide to go with Salesforce (Tableau) versus Microsoft (PowerBI).
Benefits sought & Feature Preferences: These two often go hand in hand. Benefits sought is how to expect to benefit from a product, e.g. no need for expensive integration or training.
Feature preferences cover our expectations in terms of physical features and price (or cost of ownership). Tradeoffs made on this level can make all the difference in what we decide to buy.
I feel that after years of targeted advertising and one-click audience creation, we’ve lost the appreciation for hands-on consumer research.
The best thing: The insights that bring you closer to your customers (in consumer marketing) can also help you build a deeper understanding of organisations for B2B marketing.