By Katrina Olson
This article originally appeared on tedmag.com on April 22, 2016.
At last year’s NAED AdVenture marketing conference, a whopping 60 percent of attendees were female, and approximately 43 percent were under age 36.
Contrast that with the demographics of electrical contractors.
The average age of the electrical contractor is 56.2, according to Electrical Contractor magazine’s 2014 Profile of the Electrical Contractor. And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that women hold only one percent of all electrician jobs, according to 2009 Census data.
“How do I market to people who are very different from me?”
A good marketer gets to know their customers, inside and out—who they are, what keeps them up at night, and how they make decisions. By understanding customers’ concerns, buying habits, attitudes, preferences and behaviors, you’ll get a feel for what kinds of media and messages they’ll respond to. Along the way, you’ll also learn about trends in their businesses and industry.
“How do I learn more about my customers?”
Following are seven ways you can find out what makes your customers tick. Some are pretty easy; others are more involved. But all should yield valuable insights..
1. Read your customers’ trade publications.
Most industries have trade association and publications. Health Facilities Management, Facilities Manger, Facility Management Decisions, Electrical Contractor, and Buildings and Electrical Contractor are just a few.
2. Join online groups.
Is there a LinkedIn group or social media platform where your customers and prospects hang out? Observe without participating or commenting to learn what’s important to them.
3. Ask your salespeople.
If you can’t talk directly to customers, talk to those who do. Counter staff, inside sales, outside sales, and customer service representatives can give you insight into what your customers care about.
4. Attend company events.
Get out from behind your desk or computer and attend counter days, workshops, training sessions, and other opportunities to get to know your customers. Try to uncover your customers’ hot buttons and pain points.
5. Contact customers directly.
Call or email some of your key customers and ask specific questions—like how they want to learn about new products and services. Or take them out to lunch. Explain that you want to better understand their business so you can better serve them.
6. Conduct a short survey.
Curious about what media your customers are consuming? Want to know what social media platforms they’re using? Wondering how much they use their smartphones? Ask them!
7. Host a focus group or customer advisory council.
To get honest feedback about what your customers think, conduct a focus group or establish a customer advisory council that meets every year. Rotate members out every few years to get fresh perspectives. (To make sure you get candid comments, hire an outside facilitator and leave the room.)
How can I apply this knowledge to be a better marketer?
Here’s an example. The electrical contractor’s role is evolving as they become more heavily involved in design and specification. Also, building systems are becoming more integrated and interdependent, using data hubs that communicate with each other. All systems are tied together; so all the products must be compatible with each other.
As a result, electrical contractors may look to you for comprehensive solutions, not just individual products. Electrical contractors will also rely more heavily on the electrical distributor’s expertise to help them choose the right products for both new and existing systems.
This knowledge should change the way you position and brand your company, and the way your salespeople are trained, too. Instead of just selling and marketing products, you’re marketing your staff’s expertise and product knowledge.
The trick is putting yourself in your customer’s and prospect’s shoes. That means not just understanding their wants and needs—but speaking their language. That takes a little more practice. But the more research you do, the easier it gets.
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com
You’ve been asked to write a brochure—maybe it’s about your company or a specific product or service. Content from this piece will go on the website, on flyers, and in mailings, ads and other promotions.
Your company is going to print 10,0000 brochures. So it’s kind of a big deal.
You don’t have any previous promotional materials to work from, so you’re starting from scratch. But you have no idea where to start and there’s nothing to work from.
And therein lies the problem.
No one has given you any direction. Because no one has developed a strategy—thought through the goal, purpose, audience and key message for the piece. And because good copywriting is based on a strategy, you’ve been given a nearly impossible task.
It has nothing to do with your ability to write.
Where to start?
First, start with some background. I’ll use “it” to represent your company, product or service.
- How is it positioned? What’s special or unique about it that the competition can’t claim?
- Can you describe it in one or two sentences?
- Who are its competitors?
- What does it offer or promise that our competitors don’t?
- How did the need for this marketing piece come about?
- Who are we talking to with this copy?
- Can you describe a few typical customers?
Second, start formulating a strategy for your piece.
- What is our marketing goal or objective? How will this piece be used to achieve this goal?
- What do we want to happen after people see/read this piece?
- What should the reader think, feel or do after reading this piece?
- What should be the tone of the piece? Professional, friendly, persuasive, instructional?
Third, get to the heart of the message.
- What is the most important thing we want them to know?
- What misperceptions or barriers must be overcome?
- What claims can we make?
- What research, evidence, proof (rational or emotional) support our claims?
Fourth, find answers to some of the practical questions.
- What points or information must be included?
- What specific mechanical requirements that must be met—number of pages, size restrictions, photos or images, logos?
- How will this piece be used or distributed?
Where do you get answers?
If you can’t get answers from the person who assigned the project, you’ll have to find them on your own. Start with those closest to the product or service. For example, if it’s a software program, talk to the developer. This will help you understand why the product was developed, what problem it solves, and why it’s unique.
Next, talk to front-line people who deal with customers—customer service representatives, people who answer the phones. Find out what questions customers ask. Salespeople are especially adept and knowing what customers want and need to know. Now, incorporate that information into the content.
Other good sources of information are business plans, project proposals, presentations and any documents or memos written while the product was being developed or the business was being formed.
Start with a Q&A Format
Brochures, websites, flyers and other marketing should ultimately answer customers’ questions. If you’re unfamiliar with the product, you have an advantage—because you’ll have your own questions that may parallel customers’ questions.
However, if you’re writing about your own company, it’s a little more difficult. You have to put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about the company, product or service.
Once you have all your questions and answers, group the content into categories and put the categories in a logical order. Next, work on the transitions to make the content flow from one category to the next.
Over the years, I’ve developed a template to help me walk a client through these questions. Advertising agencies call them creative briefs. I call mine a communication brief because it can be used for news releases, websites, or any piece of communication…not just advertisements.
If you’d like to request a copy of my Communication Brief (as a Microsoft Word document), just email me at Katrina@KatrinaOlson.com with “Communication Brief” in the message line, and I’ll shoot it right back to you. Eventually it will be available as a download from my new and improved website.
Katrina Olson is an award-winning advertising copywriter and creative director, marketing and public relations consultant, freelance writer, content developer, trainer/coach, former college professor, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She can be reached at email@example.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.