The customer/seller dynamic is like many other relationships in our lives where there are multiple perspectives on how things are supposed to go, how they actually go, and whether or not they are successful in the end.
In one of our previous blog posts on personas we discussed the mistake companies make when viewing customers through a mirror instead of a window. Quick recap: If a company sees their customer purely as a reflection of themselves and their employees, they are looking in a mirror. If, however, they are observing the customer – what they like and what they don’t like – and then meet the customer’s needs based on what the customer is looking for, that is a window.
The mirror vs. window question is a big clue for companies as to whose perspective they are considering when putting together a marketing campaign. We highly recommend the window!
If the lines blur and you can’t quite separate company perspective from customer, here is an exercise that has brought us great results. It’s called the Eulogy Exercise (we use this in the official Unified Marketing System™ guidebook and in most every consulting engagement we do) and it goes like this:
Imagine that your business has ceased to exist and put yourself in the shoes of someone delivering a eulogy at the memorial service.
Take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns, then write your answers to each of the following questions, one in each column. (Dispense with company jargon and focus on meaningful feelings around what you would genuinely miss.)
- If our business ceased to exist, what would I miss the most?
- If our business ceased to exist, what would someone who BOUGHT our product/service say they miss most?
- If our business ceased to exist, what would someone who regularly USED our product/service say they miss most?
This exercise can be done independently or in a group. The group version works best when people write answers individually and then share.
Note: Column 2 and 3 can represent (and often do!) different people or perspectives. For example, if I buy my son a laptop for school, I am the purchaser (column 2) and my son is the user (column 3). If the person is the same for column 2 and 3, he or she can be in a different frame of mind and have different needs and priorities in each role. In this case, if I buy the laptop for myself, my answer in column 2 might be about price or value, whereas in column 3, I might focus on my desire for usability or cutting-edge technology. How do I balance those different perspectives and make a decision as the customer?
The Eulogy Exercise demonstrates how easily companies can forget about what the customer thinks and wants as businesses engage in marketing activities.
It’s important to remember, that much like delivering a eulogy, there are emotions involved for customers in the marketplace.
From the customer perspective, EVERY purchasing decision has emotion attached to it… How do I feel about this product or service?Will this product or service solve my problem and bring ease to my life? How will others feel about me purchasing this product or service? My son? My partner? My boss? Does the idea of committing to this product or service provide relief to me? Or, by investing in this product/service do I risk adding to my stress?
Remember, the product or service you’re selling is supposed to create meaningful value for your customers, and the first step to doing that is being able to walk in their shoes and understand their perspective on the purchase.