Conversations with various clients often turn in the same direction. “We are very different, our industry is different and therefore we require a special way to look at us.” And it is not that I disagree, I always agree. But what must be understood is that, every client is special and every client needs a specific way to be looked upon. Why? Every problem and challenge is unique, that is why. Every challenge is industry specific, every growth target is client specific, every customer base has their specific opinions and every market positioning is unique for every company. These four cornerstones are what determines the best way forward for any organization:
- The industry and its ground rules
- The challenge, the targets and the “must happens”.
- The current and potential client opinions
- The present and potential market positioning
When answering a client: “Of course.” I really mean it. It is just that we answer every client the same way. The consultants or strategists that take a standard white paper and act accordingly without thought of the client specific situation might get away with a below par delivery because of being good when packaging it into a neat box. The true result will appear when you want to measure the outcome however. A whole 35% of companies openly stated 2012 that the strategies and platforms delivered, did not fully meet their expectations. Surprised? I would not be.
There are some ground rules one has to walk through in order to find out what is the way to go. And even if you do this inhouse or if you do this as a consultant, the process must be viewed from a user perspective. Don’t fall into the trap of benchmarking yourself with your industry competitors. Doing that, means you directly make the subjective mistake of assuming a users way of looking at things. And seldom they are industry specific, research shows.
Start with the user – your client
Surprisingly, you have to start with the target group you are to attract. It doesn’t matter if it is a talent group you want to attract for employment reasons, or clients for sales reasons. Everything is about your chosen targets groups needs and behavior. But much more about the behavior than the needs. Some strategists only focus on the targets gr0ups needs and while this is a good way to know if your content will be satisfying, it won’t aid you understand if your packaging is what the clients expect. Why? Because most often their expectations are already in place when they enter your site.
The online behavior determines what of your content the user is interacting with, how, where and why. Everything is about creating the logical chain, adapted to suit the users online decision model. Truly understanding a users behavior means you have to look past the needs they have for your services. The projects who focuses solely on the users needs will miss out on the most important part when it comes to implementing your strategy online, “why will they ever notice you?” Many usually say this is a part of your marketing strategy or digital strategy and that the “user needs approach” is something you look at when it comes to the conceptual design and implementation of your product. While I agree on this I still see that many products are made without the digital strategy being in place. In fact, most organizations make products for various target groups believing they will automatically be online successes as long as the target groups needs are defined well enough.
And yes, having focused on your target groups needs will make them love your product – if they find it and directly understand what to do there. But do they?
User behavior – core of your online business
It is not about what they do as they are on your product or service or how they navigate onto it. That is something which is called user experience and is about the needs, the methods and design to navigate a user flexibly at your site. But the behavior is about your strategy. Where are your users? What services do they consume? When do they consume these services? What devices are they using? Which information interests them to pick a side track and visit something else? What content and information is a higher converter for your service from other sites and not? All of these questions needs to be looked at in order to understand your digital strategy.
Following and understanding preferred target groups, you will realize which devices they use to seek information and which to complete the transactions, the incentives needed to go from interest to transaction and on which locations and times they are usually present to make these choices.
You need to do the mapping. There are several techniques. And remember, when you don’t know your target groups behaviors. You won’t know which storyline that would appeal to them the most. Different storylines have various impact on various locations, times and devices.
Know your target groups behavior – know your storyline.