What Customers Really Want

As a marketer, you want to sell, but in order to achieve that goal, you have to consider what your potential customers want. In general, customers don’t care that you want to sell them something. In fact, today’s consumers have become so “sell-savvy” that when they feel they are being “sold” on a product, they are actually less likely to buy that product. So how do you cut through what you want as an advertiser, and target customers by focusing on what they want?

Sell an Experience

Selling an experience is what continues to make the alcohol and cigarette industries thrive, even in time when consumers understand entirely the dangers of over-consumption and smoking. From the very first cigarette advertisements, these companies were not really selling their cigarettes; they were selling the lifestyle that comes with their cigarettes. This means, luxury, love, and excitement. This is a lifestyle that people want, and creating the association, almost subliminally, that buying a certain brand (of cigarettes, alcohol, toilet paper, clothes) will bring you a better life is one of the best ways to market anything.

After all, consumers rarely care about the specs of a particular product or the details of a service. What they want to know from an advertisement is how the product will make their life better, more luxurious, or easier. This is why companies like Swiffer are so successful. They could just tell you about how their dusters pick up dirt and hair, but instead they show the consumer how much easier their lives will be when they use a Swiffer product.

It is the same concept with the latest run of tablet commercials. While detailing all the benefits of the new Android tablet, the commercial also shows how the iPad just doesn’t measure up. The companies still get all of the relevant information to the consumer, but they present it in a way that shows the consumer why buying their product, over another product is better for their life.

Make Consumers Your Friends

This is, ultimately, the idea behind loyalty programs. Consumers love to feel that they are personally acknowledged and appreciated, especially by the companies that they patronize the most. This method has been extremely effective for restaurants and clothing stores alike, allowing them to take advantage of a willing audience to generate return customers.

This can be an objectively difficult task. After all, you, as a person within a corporation doesn’t have time to personally acknowledge and speak to every person who spends their money on your products or services. You do, however, have the ability to set up social media presences and reward return customers with discounts and special promotions.

Everyone likes the feeling of exclusivity, and even if it is only the façade of exclusivity (for example, loyalty programs feel exclusive, but anyone who wants to participate is free to do so), it is an effective method for bringing customers back into the fold. Plus, building a personal relationship with individual customers means that they will be more likely to offer feedback, share ideas, and recommend you to their friends—word-of-mouth is still one of the best generators of new customers.


When those customers do offer feedback and ideas, it is important to make sure they feel like their words are being heard. Modcloth, the clothing store, is a new company, but is building an extremely loyal customer base because of their “listening skills.” Scroll through the reviews of any garment and you will find that almost every review, whether positive or negative, has a response from a Modcloth customer service advocate. Why is this so important? Because customers are more likely to return and do business with a company when they feel their concerns have a voice, when they feel that their words are being read and appreciated by the corporation. Consumers have come to prefer a congenial company, over the nameless, faceless corporations of days past. They want to know who they’re getting into business with, and when you listen to their needs, either through requests made on social media, or on your website, your company is marketing itself as a “friendly” place to do business.

Be Honest

For many companies, they do not want to show weakness, and when a problem occurs, they want to blame it on someone else. When it is your fault, own it. Many companies, as soon as a problem occurs, will launch a campaign to counteract the negative effects they know a scandal or mistake will create in the profit margins. But if customers truly hate anything, it is feeling like they’ve been lied to.

Making apologies is a great way to control the story before it gets out of hand. Apple did it with the most recent release of Apple Maps—instead of letting the media continue to mock the defunct navigation app, they apologized to their loyal customers and got their name in the outlets, this time associated with a positive story.

The Bottom Line

When building a brand, the most important thing to remember is that customers are not just “customers.” They are people with individual wants and desires. Those desires may be as simple as a piece of chocolate and as complicated as a happier life. Learning how to advertise your product or service to the target market so that it fulfills one of their needs (whether that need is realized or subconscious) is the basis of any great marketing campaign. Outside of this, really humanizing your interactions with customers is a great way to brand your company as friendly and a great place to spend money.

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