Being close to your customer is one of those things that is easy to say but often hand waved at in practice. Today I’m joined by founder and CEO of vegan protein powder brand Form Nutrition Damian Soong to chat about how they bridge the gap and build meaningful relationships with customers.
Understanding how your customers define success provides the context you need to align your message with what resonates for them.
“The reason that we kind of talk about empowering the individual and being the best version of yourself is we really want to kind of recognize that performance is very individual.”
Many brands project that they are close to their customers and are customer centric but in practice being close to the customer means being genuinely authentic and caring.
“Customers sense very quickly, you know, as a brand or as a company...if there's a real connection, if there's a real sense of caring, I think. You know, by virtually, I mean, it's amazing sometimes just the things that people feel comfortable telling us, right. Really kind of personal things about their own work or personal life or diet or health situation, things that sometimes you would probably not normally even tell it, you want to tell your doctor.”
Understanding your customer fully requires a combination of knowledge points, ranging from interests and beliefs to website and purchasing behavior.
“what's been really useful for us is understanding the customer, that kind of level, you know, what their interests are, what their usual kind of demographic information and things like reasons for their diet choices and interests and, you know, beliefs and so on. And then using that with the data that we have from their actual behavior on our website, in terms of like the products that they've purchased or the pages that they visited.”
Instead of imagining who your customer is from the ground up, select a real-life customer to base your persona on.
“most people do personas and they imagine what their customer is. And to be honest, that's never correct. Because who I first imagined the Form customer to be when we first started is quite different than actually who they've transpired to be. And that's a good thing because it's kind of organic and that's how a business and a brand kind of grows...What we're kind of working to do now is to create these personas based on actual real customers that we know.”
Email is a major communication channel that can be endlessly tailored to your customers.
“we try and make sure emails and offers are tailored to the right people based on what we know about them, so that everyone's getting something that's much more useful. And I think that's important to keep up open rates and to lower churn from your email list. And that's something that's really important to us as well. Because I think email is still the most important channel in terms of communicating with the customer.”
Catering solely to the customer can result in a mediocre product. Polarization and point of view can be a good thing.
“you can't only innovate based on data or based on what your customers tell you. It has to be a balance. You have to lead somewhat right as well. There has to be some kind of direction you're going in sometimes. If all you do is rely on data or all you do is rely on your customers, it’s kind of like a regression to the mean. It’s much better in my view to be going in different directions and maybe polarizing things a little bit, rather than just regressing like I say to the mean and ending up with something really average and mediocre.”
Data is meaningless without a system in place to help formulate actionable insights. Damian recommends dialing in details like age and location before layering on more complex and qualitative customer insights.
“many people would not be able to easily pull off, I don't know, even like the age breakdown of their customers or the zip code breakdown or post code breakdown. So start with those very basic things. And then it's a question of layering up from that. So whatever kind of makes sense for your brand or your business. You know for us, it's very much about interest and goals and that kind of stuff, but for a different type of product or brand it could be something completely different.
If you haven't got the process in place to be able to deal with that data and present it, you can ask as many questions as you want, right? But until you have a system built that could take that information in and then spit something out, you're not going to be able to do much actionable with it. So I think probably focus on simple first, little kind of demographic insights, customer insights, and build a system that's able to work with that.
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