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How to motivate customers (Part II)

Last week’s article focused on how to motivate customers by addressing how your product or service is personally relevant to their lives. In this article, the discussion of customer motivation to purchase is continued as we look at the next factor in purchase decisions: the customer’s set of values.

Values are the enduring beliefs held by a person which help guide their perceptions of what is desirable or good. In the consumer’s culture, there can be an emphasis on individual values such as achievement or self-direction; collective values such as politeness, cleanliness, and responsibility; or on mixed-mode values such as security (e.g., national security or family security).

Organizations must understand how these types of consumer values affect consumption/purchase patterns, market segmentation, advertisement strategy, and last, but not least, ethics. Because consumers typically purchase and use products in ways which are consistent with their personal values, organizations can know more about what consumers like if they understand their values. Furthermore, this knowledge will help the organization determine which products to sell, where to sell them, and how to advertise them to various regional markets.

For example, individuals are more likely to buy gifts, send cards, and make long-distance phone calls in cultures where people value warm and close relationships; whereas this is much less likely to occur in cultures where there is less value placed on relationships. In one example, Campbell's Soup failed to make a significant mark in the South American markets because in many of these countries, serving canned soup to one's family seemed tantamount to accusing a mother of not caring enough to prepare a home-made soup. This area of the world places a great emphasis on how a mother cares for her children and her family; as a result, Campbell's had experienced some difficulty in approaching these markets.

When an organization understands the underlying values of its customers (or potential customers), it puts itself in a better position for developing a marketing strategy that best appeals to these customers, in whichever market they may exist.

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How to motivate customers (Part I)

When it comes to implementing a marketing strategy to sell a product or service, it is important to understand the motivations of both existing and potential customers. In a previous article, we had examined the ways in which leaders can motivate their employees; it is only fitting that we now also look at the ways in which customers can be motivated.

In order to look at how to position your products or services to new or current customers, we must look at the major driving forces behind customer motivation. In Part 1 of this series of articles, we will look at the first aspect of customer motivation: the personal relevance of the product/service to the customer.

For the product to be personally relevant to the customer, it must be involving or important enough for the customer to be willing to think about the issue and to ask themselves: "Do I really need to buy Product X from Company A?" If the consumer determines that the product or service is in fact highly relevant to them, organizations can expect an increase in the consumer's intention of purchasing the product or service. A product is more likely to be considered a hit if the organization employs a marketing strategy which focuses on: a) how the product addresses an existing problem faced by consumers; or b) increasing the awareness of new or potential problems which consumers might encounter if they choose not to buy the product.

Understanding the personal relevance of a product goes a long way in helping to predict the actual purchase intentions of a consumer, however, it is worth noting that these intentions may still differ from actual consumer purchase behaviours. Nevertheless, organizations must first determine the motivational factors behind consumer purchase decisions in order to construct an effective marketing strategy.

Measuring the personal relevance of a product is best achieved by presenting consumers with survey questions which ask them to rate their perceived importance of buying or using a product or service from your company on a rated scale. The measurement of a consumer's perception of product importance has been a successful method of linking the satisfaction of the consumer's experience (with either your brand or your organization) to their actual purchase intentions.

In Part 2, this discussion will continue by looking at the next factor in customer motivation: the customer's unique set of values and beliefs.

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Developing a consumer-oriented marketing strategy

Not long ago, marketing activities were constructed to simply promote product sales and focus on building market share; strategies that focused on how companies could move the most units of merchandise were considered the right way to go. In today's competitive business environment however, marketing activities are constructed to fulfill the needs of consumers.

Consumer-oriented marketing strategies give the marketing manager the tools required to examine which stores/distribution channels should carry the product; the price-sensitivity of the product or brand, and which segments of the population are the purchasers of the product.

Therefore, for an organization to take on a consumer oriented approach, it will have to ask the following questions:
  1. How is the market segmented? For instance, are the primary consumers brand loyalists, cost-conscious, or conspicious consumers looking to purchase luxury items for status?

  2. What is the profitability of each of these segments? Once the segmentation of the market is known, the organization should then determine the size and profitability of each of these segments. The potential for large, underserved segments of the population to exist is there and organizations that have clearly identified these potentially profitable segments can find great success.

  3. What are the common characteristics of the consumers in each segment? Now that the company has defined the segments and the profitability of each one, the marketing management must then look at the characteristics, habits, values, and influencing factors of these potential customers. By doing so, the managers can better predict whether the segment is more likely to grow or to shrink in the future. This will undoubtedly have an impact on future campaigns and marketing strategies
A final point worth mentioning is that marketing management should also ask themselves if the existing customers are actually satisfied with the current products and services offered by the organization. Ideally, this is done after the market segmentation has taken place; this way the organization can better tailor its offerings to the needs of specific customers.

By determining who the customers are and customizing and tailoring their offerings to these customers, marketing managers can benefit by: a) fulfilling the needs of underserved consumers; and b) creating long-term value and growth opportunities for their respective organizations.

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