As marketers, understanding customer needs is central to what we do. During a recent webinar, we discussed the latest figures from Ardour SEO  on the number of daily Google searches that were performed on average in 2020. With this figure coming in at a staggering two trillion, it’s clear to see how more and more of your customers are turning to the internet when they have a problem to solve or a query to answer.

In the quest to acquire, convert and retain powerful multi-device using customers in an increasingly competitive global market, we must present ourselves as solutions to their problems and stand out for all the right reasons. And it can’t be understated, this goes far beyond our keyword strategy alone and extends across all of our offline and online marketing strategies.

Getting Started

To get us started, in the webinar we used a recent real-life example search performed on Google to find out the best way to drill a sandstone wall and hang a picture without causing damage. With potential solutions that included YouTube DIY videos, infographics, adverts for tradespeople and shopping adverts for strips that require no drilling, as with most problems in the offline world, it reaffirmed that there is often more than one solution.

With the help of some theorists, it’s useful to remember why we buy the products or services that we do. In many consumer decision-making models including Brassington and Pettitt (2006), the identification of a problem or need is the key first stage. And if we remind ourselves that by definition, a problem is a gap between our actual and desired situation, we can surely delve a little deeper to help us supercharge our targeting efforts.

Modelling Customer Behaviour

In the 1990s, Kotler’s Product Layer Model taught us how to think of any product or service as a bundle of benefits, divided into the core, actual and augmented product. At the core of the product is the actual benefit it serves or problem that it will solve. This can be tangible, functional or emotional and will, of course, vary widely according to the type of product or service you offer.

If we take a burglar alarm as an example, the perceived benefits could be increased home security, sleeping easy at night and protecting our loved ones, property and possessions – a complex roll up of functional and emotional benefits. When we offer state-of-the-art models, smart device-enabled functions, environmentally-friendly features and bespoke colours, we are in fact augmenting the core benefits to add value for the customer and increase competitive advantage.

Here, we must also consider a business-to-business situation where there is often a collection of customers or stakeholders within the decision-making unit. With detailed specifications on some products and services, commercial customers often have trouble defining the problem that they actually have. Perhaps your offering saves money, serves their downstream or upstream customers or even satisfies compliance needs, but the same principles apply in the need to understand the core basic benefit.

Building a profile of customer needs

This knowledge of the customer needs will enable us to map out their journey and present a successful solution before their eyes. Building a cache of psychographics, demographics and webographics can help us to develop suitable personas that define our customers at a granular level.

Got it? Now forget it. Well not exactly, but we must remind ourselves that we are operating in a state of exponential technology-driven social change. Put simply, your customer needs will always be a moving target, so we must implement an agile-based system of ongoing macro and micro environmental auditing in order to successfully reorient our strategies and tactics as our customers evolve.

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