Marketing is diverse industry where preconceptions often influence or cloud what we think the customer wants, or is buying.

In reality what we are selling isn’t always what a customer is buying; for example a merchant might think that his product or service caters for a certain requirement for the customer, yet the customer may be buying for totally different reasons.

e.g We are selling a 500w power drill with hammer action and variable speed, the customer is buying a hole in the wall. The drill is merely what facilitates this hole in the wall, so we should focus on the customers desired outcome, not the technical specifications of the drill unless that builds the desire in the user to buy our hole making machine!

A great  marketing case study that really highlights this is in the book “How Companies Win”, where author Rik Nash was approached in his consultation business by a successful dog food company to help find new avenues for growing sales.

At the time the dog food manufacturer sold food by size of dog, i.e.

Small dogs
Medium dogs
Large dogs

They sold the 3 different types of dog foods in 3 different sizes of bags ; Small, Medium and Large.

It was accepted marketing practice at the time to sell by size (of both dog and bags!), but the forward thinking dog food company had Rik research in-depth what customers really wanted and why they bought the dog food that they did. Riks findings were very surprising and helped reorientate the entire industry and how they marketed dog food from that point forward.

Rik found that dog owners were more complicated than the dog food manufacturers thought and that actually they didn’t just see their dogs as just small, medium or large dogs when it came to food. They bought food based on the relationship that they had with their dog and where the dog was viewed within the family.

Rik was able to identify five distinct categories of dog owner :

Pampered Parents – Relate to their dog as a child.
Concerned Caregivers – Relate to their dog as part of the family.
Performance Fuelers – Relate to their dog as an active partner.
Budget Conscious Family – Relate to their dog as a pet.
Minimalists – Relate to their dog as a farm tool.

Dog Food Case Study

These five categories went from extremes of owners viewing their dog as a working tool to being a cherished child.

Each specific category viewed their dog differently and bought food for their dog with different criteria in mind, from the value, bulk buying of economy quality food for the Minimalists group, to the high cost, high standard, gourmet quality of the Pampered Parents group. This is where owners even spent money of accessories such as specialised dog water and pampering treatments at doggy salons!

Once Rik had given the dog food companies the new groups to focus on they found many new ways to tap into and market to these groups in ways that built high rapport, trust, need and brand loyalty though focused buying triggers.

A latent demand was found in the Performance Feulers where Rik pointed out that owners examined ingredients and they would be open to paying more money for higher quality dog food that delivered the nutrition that they felt their dog needed.

Each of the 5 groups Rick identified were targeted with value propositions that resonated with their owners :

Minimalist were targeted with health and good value
The budget conscious with cheap food.
The concerned caregivers were targeted with value, variety  and health.
The Performance Feulers with high quality, nutritionally superior food.
The Pampered parents targeted with food that displayed human food traits.

If the dog food manufacturers had stayed in the old marketing mindset of selling what they thought the customer wanted instead of really trying to understand what they wanted then the dog food industry would have lost out on billions of dollars of extra profit and owners would have missed out on looking after their dogs in line with how they viewed them in the social standing of their families, however due to the forward thinking work by the dog food manufacturer, dog owners, dogs and the industry all benefitted.

It would be wise for you to do research on your customers and really identify why they buy, not why YOU think they buy from you. If you can identify what really makes them tick you could really hone in on their motivations and build rapport and brand loyalty that sticks like superglue!

More and more Search Engines are gravitating to a user first experience. Content written for SEO needs to be just as much for the user as the search engine. So with that in mind go take a look at your customers and ask yourself whether you’re selling the drill or the hole.

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