How to Think Like a Business Customer

Every now and then, a company executive may fall in love with a marketing idea that they or their advertising agency dreamed up. “There’s no way this won’t work,” they convince themselves. So when it doesn’t, the poor executives are left scratching their heads in confusion.

A possible reason for such marketing failures may be found in “Wiio’s Laws,” a humorous but insightful set of principles created in the mid-1970s by Osmo Wiio, a communications professor at the University of Helsinki.

One Wiio Law explains why the advertisements we love may not click with customers: “If you are satisfied with your message, communication certainly will fail.”

The customer determines the meaning of a message.

According to Wiio, the person who determines whether communication is successful is always the recipient of the message, not the sender. When a marketer crafts a message that pleases the senior executives of a company, there’s a good chance it’s not crafted in a way that pleases the potential customer.

Chances are, the message that executives like most will focus on how great the product is. What the customer prefers is a message that is less about the product and more about how it meets his or her needs.

Developing marketing messages that work for customers requires marketers to place themselves in the customers’ shoes as much as possible. Become more attuned to the process, or “journey,” you take when you are wearing your customer hat. When you encounter new brands or products that intrigue you, stop and analyze why. Be aware of the step-by-step process you take in deciding what restaurant you’ll visit this weekend. Track your customer journey from your recognition of a need, through any research you may pursue (even a quick look at Yelp), through a transaction or through an on-boarding process.

In other words, learn how to be a better marketer by becoming a more enlightened customer.

Learn to care less about marketing messages that make you satisfied. Learn how to care more about the marketing messages that connect with your customers and, most importantly, that connect your customers with your brand and product.

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