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Tuna fish or hummus? The answer (really) can increase sales

Tuna fish or hummus? The answer (really) can increase sales

February 23, 2012

Hummus or tuna fish? Which do your customers prefer? The more you know about your customers the better you can identify with your hungry fish -- and the more likely you'll increase your sales.

Sounds like a strange question, right?

But knowing whether your customers prefer tuna fish or hummus could help you increase the sales of your products or services. I'll tell you why in a moment and how companies like Apple are using this type of information to market their computers.

I'm guessing you already have a good idea of the demographics you're trying to serve in your target market.

You know roughly your customers' age, gender, income level, position in an organization, their role in the purchase decision and where they live or work. But that's where most business owners and marketers begin and end. And that's a HUGE mistake because that's just a start'

For example, what gets your prospects up and going in the morning? (Not just coffee!) What inspires them? Why do they do what they do?

Or, what keeps them up at nights? What's their pain? What are their toughest challenges or problems they're wrestling with right now? Do they prefer tuna fish? Hummus? History channel? HBO? McDonald's fries? Or bistro-type fries? Keep reading because you may be surprised to know what things you really must know and which things don't matter to your customer.

We've been working with quite a few clients this week on this very topic and it's one of the most powerful exercises you can do.

Why? Because once you really know what drives your prospects ' what makes your fish hungry ' what makes your target market wake up in a cold sweat at night ' what interests them ' what they fear most; you can position your product or service around solving those issues for them.

Selling and marketing is about meeting your prospects wants and needs, right? Well, the best way to really understand their wants and needs is to move beyond basic
demographics and get into their psychographics. Don't get confused with demographics which refer to age, income, gender, etc. Psychographics refers to personality, attitudes, values, interests and lifestyle. This is what makes your prospects tick.

We know one publisher who used this approach and it's one of the biggest reasons the company was able to turn itself around from losing $2 million a year to netting nearly $10 million in less than 2 years on revenues of $40 million. Now that's a turnaround!

Do you have a "Larry" or "Julie" Avatar? These are multi-dimensional profiles of your ideal customers. They should include demographic info such as age, income, etc. but they should also include favorite magazines, drinks, foods, vacation spots, cars, outdoor activites and so on. Post their pictures to your wall as a reminder of who you're trying to serve.

How did they do it? By really understanding the personalities of their best prospects and their challenges.

Some of the questions we ask are off the wall, I admit. But the more you know, the better off you can position your brand. Below is a 'Larry Tool' you can use. Every business has a 'Larry' or a 'Julie' (see photo) who is their avatar ' an image of someone who represents your customer profile. You can even have more than one 'Larry' or "Julie" for different market segments.

Get a picture of him or her and tape the image to your wall. Create an avatar based on the questions below:


  • What are they worried about?
  • What do they like to spend their money on?
  • What kinds of cars do they drive?
  • What do they do in a typical day?
  • Are they Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent?
  • What is their desk like at work? (Is it organized or cluttered?)
  • How do they prefer to communicate? Phone? Email? Face-to-face? Text messaging?
  • Who do they report to?
  • Are they conservative or liberal?
  • What keeps them up at nights?
  • What positions or titles in the organization do they aspire to?
  • How are they evaluated?
  • What are they passionate about? (What would they do even if they didn't get paid for it?)
  • What do they hate doing most of all?
  • Do they prefer to take risk or avoid risk?
  • What's more important to them ' making money or saving money?
  • Who is the primary decision maker? (Note: Women make 80% of all buying decisions in American homes today.)
  • What makes them get up early in the morning?
  • How do they like to dress? (Jeans or business casual?)
  • What do they consider to be their most important tasks or responsibilities at work?
  • How do they prefer to spend their free time?
  • What do they want to do when they retire?
  • If they didn't have to work, what would they do?
  • Are they coupon clippers?
  • Are they more likely to rely on facts and figures or their intuition when making a decision?

So how do you get the answers to these questions? Have your sales people (or reps, callers or those who communicate regularly with customers) ask them these questions and listen for clues as they engage in conversations. It's often surprising (and SCARY!) to learn just how little the sales staff really know about your customers.


Survey your customers. Call them and ask them these types of questions. Hold focus groups. Meet with customers and prospects over dinner. It's one of the best investments you can make. One of the best places to meet with a diverse group of prospects is at a convention or conference.

We held a focus group for one client at a convention to better understand what their prospects' needed most and to test a few ideas ' and we uncovered an entirely new service as a result. IMPORTANT: record the discussion and transcribe it so you have the actual language people use and you're less likely to rely on your interpretation of what you thought you heard.

Get out of the office. We know one company who held its staff meetings at clients' offices. They got a much better idea of how their clients operated, what they talked about at the water cooler and how they talked to each other. They also had their clients sit in on their staff meetings to give them feedback they never would have gotten otherwise.

Make it your mission to create a psychographic profile at conferences or seminars you attend. Find your ideal prospects and ask them some of the questions above and keep a list.

The idea is to create a composite of your best prospects. Then position your product or service around their lifestyle, attitudes, interests ' and needs. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to market and sell your products.

Below is a great example of how researchers at Hunch created a psychographic comparing PC users with Mac users that includes buyers' personality, fashion and food tastes and even whether they prefer to watch 60 Minutes or 20/20. It's fascinating to read it and then think about the images and ads you see for the Mac and how closely the marketing matches the psychographic profile.

Mac users, for example, are more likely to throw parties; they prefer humus over tuna fish; they prefer modern art; they prefer bistro-type fries over McDonald's fries; HBO over the History channel and they're more likely to consider themselves early-adopters.

Knowing that information gives you a much better profile of a Mac user that Apple can use in its marketing.

So what kind of sandwiches do your customers prefer? Do they prefer Mac or PC? What TV shows do they prefer? The answers will tell you a lot more about your customers that you can use to help boost your own sales.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,


Jon Goldman, President