November 5, 2018

Consumer focus key to business growth

"All About Them – Grow Your Business by Focusing on Others" by Bruce Turkel (Da Capo Press, $24.99).

Turkel identifies the dynamics of today's consumer succinctly: "When all products are similarly functional and acceptable, it's the way the product makes you feel, not the way it works, that matters." He speaks to the emotional part of the buying experience — people want to differentiate themselves. Examples:

1. The Toyota Prius vs. the Honda Civic Hybrid. The two cars have almost identical fuel-economy stats and price, yet there are close to a million more Priuses on the road than Civic Hybrids. Why? The Prius has an unmistakable design while the Civic Hybrid looks like a Civic. A Prius makes a visual statement about its owner.

2. Uber vs. taxi. It's cool to call Uber; it's passť to call a cab.

People also want to tell people about their experiences (especially the bad ones). The transparency of the digital world allows consumers to quickly spread their message to their contacts, and creates a domino effect as contacts share/retweet on social media. Without such access, the "United Airlines Broke My Guitar" YouTube video wouldn't have nearly 16 million views — and United wouldn't have altered its policy on damaged luggage.

How does the consumer's fixation on being different affect a business? It changes the business' mindset from "Why do you like or dislike our product?" to one that asks consumers: "Who are you," "What are you passionate about," or "What's important to you?" Many of their answers can be found by tracking social media trends. The answers identify hot buttons that businesses must push to deliver "what's next."

The mindset change also involves "being" the consumer. Executives seldom work through customer issues. I doubt the CEO of AT&T would have been happy spending two hours on the phone like I did to resolve an issue involving online access to my account.

The bottom line: Focusing on consumers ignites their passion for the brand/product.

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