Do You Know Your Customers
By Ron Rosenberg
So many organizations try to deliver valuable products and services to their customers and members; but in the final analysis, they don’t seem to have even the faintest clue of what these people need, how they behave, and what will work most effectively in reaching them.
In an environment like this, even the most rudimentary efforts can go a long way. I speak to many different types of associations. They include owners of high-end jewelry stores and home improvement centers, manufacturing and wholesale groups, and volunteer and full-time leaders of local association chapters.
In all of these cases, I make sure to learn and understand everything I possibly can about the group, the environment, and profession. I review the organization's website. I search the internet for relevant information. I interview a cross-section of the association’s members and leaders.
In other words, I do my homework.
And because of this, I can tailor my content so that it’s not a "canned" presentation – identical to the one I gave two weeks ago and the one I’m going to give next month. I understand the issues they face, I know their history, and I speak their language.
Similarly, you can’t possibly deliver the products and services your members need unless you know them intimately.
And we can learn how to do this from the most unexpected sources.
What Can You Learn from an Actor?
In 2005, the award-winning police drama "NYPD Blue" went off the air after 12 very successful seasons. The show had its good years and its not-so-good years; but one thing that remained constant throughout the entire series was the extraordinary acting ability of the show's main star, actor Dennis Franz.
In case you didn't get a chance to see the show back then or in reruns on various channels, Franz, who won four Emmy awards for his outstanding work, played Detective Andy Sipowicz, an extremely complex character who was tormented by his own demons and conflicted by his own actions, but basically a good person.
Franz played this character with absolute brilliance. He could express more with a single expression or a sideways glance than most people could with spoken dialog. Everything he did, whether an action, a line, or just an attitude communicated that he was a New York City Police detective.
Granted, some of this was the writing, some of it was the fact that executive producer Bill Clark was himself a legendary NYPD detective, but most of the effectiveness of this character goes back to Franz's early days as an actor in Chicago.
It's the Cops...Let's Get Out of Here!
When preparing to audition for a part where he would be playing a policeman, Franz and an acting buddy of his, spent weeks hanging around with Chicago cops. They ate where the cops ate, listened to what they said and how they said it, and deliberately studied their mannerisms.
A few weeks later, the two young actors were walking in a local park, and when a group of kids saw them approaching, they fled, mistaking Franz and his friend for actual police officers.
At that point, Franz knew that they were ready for their audition. They had put in their time, done extensive hands-on research, and had passed their final test.
If you want to know what your members need and expect - if you want to be able to blow away your competition, leaving your company as the only logical solution - you need to know your customers like the back of your hand.
Read what they read. Hang out with them. Talk to them. Take them out to lunch and actually listen to them. One marketing expert I work with says you have to know everything you can about your customers - right down to the color of the socks they wear.
Akio Morita, the legendary CEO of Sony Corporation, lived in New York City for two years before he even considered introducing any of his company's products to the US market. You can probably see the results without leaving your own house, and if you don't own a Sony product, a quick visit to Amazon or a trip to a local electronics store will show you the long-term results of this approach.