Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Let's Play Pretend

Putting Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes
Let’s Play Pretend is an exercise I ask my clients to do when we are in the process of creating marketing tools. Yes, it sounds like “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” but it’s really eye-opening.  Any organization, large or small, needs to understand its value to its customers from the customer’s point of view.  One simple way to figure that out is to pretend you are your own customer and experience your business from that viewpoint.
An example:  All too often, when you read the brochure or web site of a business you’re considering, the messages are all about them and how great they are, and not about how they can serve you and solve your problem. We’ve all had the experience of going to a web site to find answers to a particular dilemma, only to be confronted by a wall of text that must be slogged through to find any answers.
It’s as if you went to a fitness center and asked the front desk receptionist about available programs, and the receptionist said, “In a minute, BUT FIRST you have to read our mission statement, all our staff bios, our company history, our membership policies, how we bill and what happens if you pay late. And then I’ll tell you about our programs unless it’s time for my break.” A sane person would turn around and leave. And that’s what people do at web site landing pages when the page is all about the business and not about how it can help them.
If you’re in retail, here's another example. Stand in front of your store pretending you're a customer and see what strikes you. Are you excited to go in? Or do you notice a tired window display, trash on the sidewalk or an illegible sign? Once you’ve entered, are you happy to be there? Or do you see a confusing layout, sloppy employees or poorly lit displays? Hmmm . . .  
It is hard to bring these issues into awareness when you’re immersed in the day-to-day minutiae of running a business. In customer mode, you'll see both the good and the bad more clearly. Playing pretend helps you fix the problems and build on the strengths.
For those of us who offer professional services, service quality, delivery and satisfaction must constantly be monitored. We survive on word of mouth, so understanding how our clients experience our services is a matter of business life or death. Since we tend to become blind to what’s constantly around us, the trick is to cultivate fresh eyes and ears, and this is how playing pretend will help you. It’s a free source of good information, and it serves to remind us of who should be front and center in our business consciousness: our customer.

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