How to Read Your Customers’ Minds

You have a great product idea you can really get behind. Your spouse loves it.

Your friends, workmates, clients, and patients encourage you – they want to see more.

Your designer has never been more inspired.

And when it launches, it falls far short of your expectations.

What happened?

Less than enthusiastic response often reveals a mismatch between your product’s promises and your customer’s desires.

And more often than not, this disconnect occurs because you are not your customer.

And neither are those closest to you. Most of the time, friends and family, and even some of the clients you attract, are often just mirrors for your own enthusiasm. Who doesn’t prefer seeing you happy and engaged?

It’s not that you don’t care about your customer. Of course you do.

It’s just that you’re an expert in your field of interest.

And your readers and customers aren’t.

And often, your reasons for fervently believing someone “should” embrace your creation aren’t the same as their reasons for needing or even wanting your creation.

It’s human nature to project our desires and preferences onto others. And because our customer isn’t there in the room with us when we start designing that product or web site, everything we thought we knew about our customers seems to evaporate.

The solution is obvious: you’ve got to find a way to get out of your own head and into the heads of your audience.

How do you do this?

First, Envision the Transformation

Many creative souls love the beginning: the start up, the launch. Sadly, all that effort isn’t always connected to a viable end result: A satisfied customer.

So before you write your next post, create your next product, or launch your next big venture, I advocate skipping ahead to the end: What impact will your blog post, your product, or your web site have in the lives of your readers, buyers, or visitors?

To create an enduring brand, a great product, a compelling sales offer, or even a great blog post, you’ve got to identify the primary transformation for each of them. And then, you’ve got to be able to explain your promise in terms of how it changes or transforms the customer in some way.

What do you want your reader or buyer to experience when reading your posts or buying your products?

Does that experience change their lives in any way? The better you can explain that, the more buyers you’ll have.

Next, Translate the Transformation

So you’ve come up with compelling benefits – multiple ways your product will change your customer’s lives.

But what if your potential customers simply don’t agree they even need the change you prescribe? What if they completely ignore your best intentions and click past your message?

Thus the second half of the transformation equation: re-frame or “translate” your transformation into terms your reader and buyer not only understands, but also needs, wants, and genuinely desires.

That’s where “reading minds” comes in.

Then, Get Inside the Heads of your Customers

Here are three places to begin getting out of your own head and into the heads of your audience. There are more thorough and targeted methods you can use to gather this data – like surveys – but as a way to get started, the following have served me well.

Reviews

If you’re considering creating a product about a certain subject, check out Amazon.com and see if there are any titles on that subject – and then read the reviews.

I’ve seen a few goroos recommend simply looking for several popular titles on a particular subject to measure the viability of a product.

That’s not nearly enough data. You’ve got to dig into the reviews, uncover the reasons why people love or hate these titles.

A few reviews will be pure gold, and will be worth every minute you invest in dissecting them. Here, you’ll find what readers were looking for, and what they didn’t find – often using the precise words and phrases you can use to deliver exactly that to your customers.

Forums

Some of my best ideas come from spending time in any one of the several forums I belong to.

A lot of people join forums hoping to “network” and get new clients. I join to see what others are thinking, complaining about, and most importantly, are most fervently wishing for.

I take notes. I then write posts and create products that respond to those most fervent desires. In fact, this post’s topic stems from a “hot seat” experts panel I participated in a few months ago. I listened with the other panel members as each entrepreneur told of their sales and marketing challenges. One of them gave me my title when he sighed in frustration, “I wish I could figure out a way to read my customers’ minds before dumping a fortune into product development.” 

And what was the most common product-killing pattern among them? You guessed it: They hadn’t listened to anyone outside their own heads or echo chamber.

Comments

Pay attention to the comments, both on your own blog and on others – pay special attention to those who disagree with the author.

Search Trends

Can search trends and sheer number of searches tell you anything about the viability of your product or project? Maybe.

Here’s what can tell you more: surveying targeted subsets of those searchers. Asking them specifically what they were looking for and what they had hoped to find.

There’s a science to this, and we’ve used this process with dozens of clients to narrow in on their niche, positioning, branding, and marketing messaging.

Over to you . . .

What have you used to get inside the heads of your audience? Let us know in the comments below.

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