Marketing Bootcamp

The 3 Questions You Have to Answer to Get Your Customers Eager to Buy

You probably heard about Apple’s big announcement. But were you tuned in live? Because if you’re a loyal Apple customer, you’ve been trained to feed on the mystique, to hold your virtual breath in anticipation, and to critique the presentation as much as the features. (I heard the live stream was #epicfail.)

But most of all, you’ve been trained to queue up early, because there might not be enough to go around.

Some of the behavior you’re trained to isn’t even relevant anymore but are so ingrained that Apple is still counting on the formula to work.

Of course, it doesn’t work on everyone. Some responses that showed up in my tweet stream echoed the iconic Rhett Butler line; "Frankly my dear ..."

Related: Tech Glitches, Delivery Delays: Apple's Latest Product Rollout Has Been a Mess So Far

But the true fanatics weren't shy about drooling over Apple’s new release. One friend's Facebook status the evening prior to the announcement was “Tomorrow’s the big day!” and he wasn’t referring to his wedding or a new product launch. The next day his Instagram account had an image of his calendar - he'd logged a reminder to himself to order the iPhone 6 for himself and his wife. As if he was likely to forget! 

That's an example of a true addict, or fanatic. He's been trained to behave a certain way. He’s OK with that. Because he gets as much value out of the experience as he does the device.

Are you racking your brain, trying to figure out how you can get more addicts of your own? Good! I talked about that here.

Maybe you're racking your brain trying to figure out how you can imitate Apple's launch strategies. Stop that. Right now. Imitating a marketing tactic only works if you can answer three questions:

  1. Who is your ideal customer?
  2. What action do you want them to take?
  3. What big brand are they loyal to that has already trained them in the type of behavior you are trying to encourage?

Related: Build a Better Understanding of Customers, Get a Competitive Advantage

If your ideal customers are in the "Rhett Butler" group; the folks who were posting memes about the fools who wait in line to get a new phone, imitating Apple will, at best, be a waste of time. If you identify a really tight niche market, you can probably make some accurate guesses about what brands they are loyal to. But to verify, or get new ideas, Google is your friend. 

Let's say that you create a niche market profile, compare them to the demographic of Starbucks junkies and they're a pretty close match. You can assume that a significant number of your ideal customers have been trained to join up and follow through. Because Starbucks sets up frequent “games” that require you to sign up, then perform certain tasks within a set period of time. Right now, for instance, if I visit one more Starbucks location by the end of day tomorrow, I will have five bonus stars on my account.

Sometimes the behavior they’re driving has to do with certain products -- try two out of three new flavors for bonus points. Sometimes it’s time of day -- visit us five times in the next 10 days after 2:00 PM for bonus points. No matter what they want me to do, I’m trained to join the game and try to win those points. It works, and I enjoy playing along, even when I see exactly what they’re doing.

If your ideal customer craves Orange is the New Black, or can’t live without their fix of Game of Thrones, then ask yourself what kind of “binge behavior” you might want to inspire. Services like Amazon Prime and Netflix have trained customers not to wait for “next,” but to queue up the entire season and not come up for anything but popcorn until it’s over.

Sites like Groupon, Zulily, and Ideeli are training two behaviors you can use to your advantage. First, they’re training their customers that everything is in limited supply and available for a limited time. So people are conditioned to buy what they want, right now, because no one wants to miss out on a great deal. They’re also training people to tolerate a flood of emails, often more than one a day.

Stores like Sam’s and Costco train your customers that bigger is not only better, it’s cheaper.

Zappos trains people to “just buy it.” Because you can always send it back. No questions asked.

Who is your ideal customer? What do you want your customers to be trained to do? What brands are they already loyal to, and how is that brand training those behaviors?

When you can answer those three questions you’re ready to design your next marketing campaign. Not before.

Related: Marketing Like the Big Brands: Think You Know Your Customer? Think Again.