This post is part of a series describing customer segments that are especially valuable to retailers. For each group, we’ll break down their unique characteristics, what kind of brands could benefit from getting in front of them and how they could be identified.
The Lake Entertainer
Today we’re going to take a closer look at a creature native to my own land of Minnesota and its 10,000 lakes: the cabin owner. In and around the Twin Cities, it’s fairly common for well-off families to own or have access to a cabin within a few hours’ drive. For families lucky enough to have a lake place, many weekends in the short Minnesota summer are spent at the lake.
Each lake is different of course. But some common themes emerge when considering what it’s like at a Minnesota lake in the summer.
Lake places are made for gathering and lake place owners often invite friends and family to the lake. Summer doesn’t last long in the upper Midwest and weekends are precious. As a host there’s an obligation to entertain guests well, including making memorable meals (usually some form of barbeque,) campfires and lake toys for splashing in and around the water. This means that hosts are especially interested in products that are capable of creating a wow factor with guests.
There’s a kind of spending justification that can go along with this too. For a lot of cabin owners, they take on the expense of buying and maintaining a lake place because it allows them to spend more time with those they love. Splurging on the little extras that might make that time more enjoyable is easy knowing that these opportunities are precious and fleeting.
At the lake, the vibe is casual punctuated with the odd and outrageous. A cabin can be a place to express personality with bold decor choices that wouldn’t fly at home. And when it comes to entertainment, the weird and the extreme can come out in the form of homemade contraptions, bizarre themes and outsized dimensions.
There is a one upsmanship involved with other groups around the lake that can magnify this effect. Again, any product that is bold enough to stand out, or unique enough to represent a personal passion, has a good shot at the lake.
A High Lookyloo Factor
One of the best ways to enjoy the lake is by boat. We can divide motorized boat traffic into a few major types. There are fishing boats looking for smallmouth bass and northern pike, parents in ski boats pulling kids on tubes, jet skis zipping around in circles and a handful of powerful wake setting boats full of young adults blasting music while wakeboarding or surfing. But the most ubiquitous boat found on the water has got to be the slow moving pontoon boat.
Pontoons excel at creating a comfortable cruise for groups of up to 12 people of all ages. The classic plan when filing onto the boat for a pontoon ride is to set the throttle just above idle speed and crawl along the perimeter of the lake, enjoying the sun and gazing at all of the impressive lake houses.
These floating platforms make for all kinds of conversation, but eventually the talk usually revolves around what other people that live on the lake are doing at their place: cabin improvements under way, the boats they have, their towables and rest of the lake toys they’re using.
This creates a natural kind of window shopping experience for cruisers, as well as a “keeping up with the Joneses” effect. The scores of pontoons doing laps each day represent a uniquely potent environment for word of mouth marketing.
Meet the Lake Entertainer Buyer Profile
Stir these factors together and you’ve got a valuable prospect profile for relevant brands in a context for free spending.
Higher than average household income
Cares about entertaining friends and family and wants to impress neighbors around the lake
Considers the lake a form of ‘vacation mode’ which can lead to looser spending choices
Readily influenced by other lake owners in close proximity and able to affect referral purchases
Open to impulse buying of niche products that are personal or outrageous as a form of self expression
Product categories that should seek the Lake Entertainer
There is a huge range of products that could apply to this buyer profile. Here are a few example categories.
Personalized decor and entertaining items
Tools for cooking for a crowd e.g. pellet smokers, Yeti coolers
Bizarre inflatables and towables
Outdoor entertaining gear, especially drinkware
Products for documenting the weekend e.g. action camera
Reaching Lake Entertainer Prospects
So what are some ways to find these valuable buyers? A few suggestions.
Tax records can provide mailing addresses at popular recreational lakes for mailings or for matching with identity resolution services
Using Facebook, target fans of products that are mostly dedicated to maintaining a lake place such as ShoreMaster docks and lifts.
Run social contests to incentivize user generated content from customers
Offer to sponsor lake association events with cash or in-kind donations
Enter a float in the local 4th of July parade
Create an email newsletter with news and stats by lake
That’s it for this installment of Ideal Customer Profiles. Enjoy the summer while it’s here!
There are so many ways for brands to use Pinterest, I thought I would put together a summary of pin types and what they’re good for.
#1 Title Pin
Title pins represent content that’s hosted elsewhere. Good ones use eye catching visuals and text that’s readable in its thumbnail form. These pins aim to pass users from pinterest.com to the destination site.
#2 Long Form
These pins are self contained and offer all of the content in the image. Using these pins encourages repins and can gain the brand more followers.
It might be a single image that represents a larger gallery, or one tip from a list of ten. This hybrid type offers some of the content directly in the Pin, while promising more if the user clicks through to the site.
#4 Sale Pin
Announcing a sale can directly affect business, but these pins are much less likely to get passed along. The pins also easily become outdated.
For brands that have a loyal following, your fans may simply want a pin that represents your business to show the world who they love.
#6 Product Category
Best for brands within niche solutions or for market leaders within their category, these pins present the features of a product without naming the company at all.
Product pins are the most natural way for Pinterest users to interact with brands. Verify your business and use rich pin meta data for the best effect.
Some pins are all about self expression. Users pin these to tell the world what they’re all about. Design a great badge pin that represents your industry and grow your brand.
#9 Results Pin
These images sell your products by showing the net result. The pin can link to your tutorial for more details on how to achieve the result, or can reference your product in the pin description.
When it’s your job to decide how to spend marketing dollars and your budget is not unlimited, options that are easily trackable to revenue tend to win out. That’s easy to understand; it feels safer to choose channels that you can prove were effective, or that at least didn’t lose any money.
When you can show that A caused B, the picture is simple and simple feels good. That’s one of the reasons why Google spends so much on reporting tools for its cash cow self-service ad platform. They want you to see the connection to revenue and feel content with your ad spend. It works too – Google pulled in nearly $10 billion last quarter.
Simple methods for lead acquisition are great, especially for products with a short sales cycle, but they’re not the whole picture. Just because an effort is not easily tracked doesn’t mean it can’t be extremely effective.
When attempting to break through the noise into a consumer’s consciousness, the deck is stacked against brands. Because of the onslaught of messages that we all get pounded with every day, defenses are up. Simply asking for a sale is not enough.
Long term efforts around awareness offer a way. They have gotten a bad name lately because they don’t always show up well on a dashboard. But planting seeds of recognition early in a buying process can get around ad-blindness and deliver big returns. It’s well known that word of mouth is the most persuasive form of endorsement and trust is usually credited as the reason why. And while it’s trust that enables a Five Guys fan to make an effective lunch recommendation to a coworker, one of the reasons why he’ll go along with it is this:
He doesn’t feel that he’s being sold anything.
Persuasion is most effective when it’s invisible. The marketer’s goal should be to arrive two steps before the discussion of products starts, shaping their methods for evaluation and scoring points before the overt game even starts. If done well, the audience draws their own conclusion based on subtle hints whose influence they weren’t even aware of.
As a bonus, many brands don’t have the resources or the guts to market this way, preferring to stick to methods that deliver a tidy ROI number within a short time span. The competition will be much lighter here. Plus, if you are fortunate enough to register a message within the brain of your target customer weeks or months before she needs to consider a purchase, you will benefit from the positive connotations of recognition when the memory pops back up in her mind.
Like the Bene Gesserit, your generous, friendly content will be subtly influencing under the surface. It doesn’t have to be as sneaky or manipulative either. One example from my kitchen happened at dinner the other day. My wife brought out a new marinade from Frontera Grill for our fajitas. When I saw his picture on the bottle, my mind jumped back to years before when I had seen some of Rick Bayless’s cooking shows on PBS. I never really loved that show in the first place but part of me was proud that I connected the dots and I was able to throw out a few things that I remembered from the show in conversation while we made dinner. The marinade’s quality bumped up a couple of notches before we even sat down to dinner and I would be more inclined to buy it again in the future.
Longer term campaigns are especially useful when:
There is a long time delay between purchases
It’s difficult to select a product without technical knowledge
Purchases aren’t planned ahead of time but are urgent (e.g. furnace repair)
There’s little to differentiate between products based on features
I’m all for accountability and love to eliminate efforts that aren’t defendable. Buzz building awareness campaigns have been derided lately for being fluffy and often for good reason. But to ignore long term messaging for lack of reporting is to miss out on a proven method of influence, even if it is a little harder to recognize.
We talked a while back about how the moment the customer opens their shipment is the climax of the customer experience and the ultimate single make or break point for brand delivery. By that time, the results are beyond our control as marketers. Once the product leaves the warehouse, the die is cast. Before we get to that point though, we do have chances to influence the final impression. It’s our job to tip the scales in our favor as much as we can. To do that, we must build anticipation for the solution that our customer is waiting for until they can’t wait to tear open the package when it finally does arrive. The only real caution here is to avoid setting expectations beyond what your product or service can deliver. The product has to come first and I’m assuming that we’ve already got something that does its job. And it’s always wise to save a few surprises for the very end. In the meantime though, there are plenty of ways to whet the appetite.
Make estimated delivery updates available at each phase of completion
Offer a photo or PDF of your customer’s custom product before it’s boxed up and email it
Display happy testimonials on your order confirmation emails
Send an email with tips and suggestions on how to use their product in the days before it arrives
Mail a handwritten thank you note on the purchase date or email a short comment that is unique to them
I’m sure you can think up many others. These are not cheap marketing tricks though. Anticipation is part of the customer experience. And it’s an opportunity for us to increase customer satisfaction because people want it. The process surrounding a product is part of the product. Once you’ve created a pleasant expectation in your customer’s mind, they’re very likely to have a positive ultimate experience (unless you completely botch the job.) Think of how good a bakery smells in the morning. Once you’ve got idea of a warm, tasty bagel in your mind, and spend 5 minutes waiting to get a fresh one, chances are you’re going to be happy when you get it. Most of the time the reason behind this dynamic of persuasion is cognitive dissonance – people don’t want to disagree with themselves. When you buy shoes online, you’re placing your trust in that shoe retailer. You’ve paid your money and, in a sense, placed a bet that you’ve picked out the right company. You want your decision to be affirmed as a good one and will tend to lean toward that conclusion when the shoes arrive. One of the old sales tricks that salespeople employ is to get the prospect saying yes, even if it’s not directly related to a sale. Once they start saying yes to the small things, they’ll be more likely to keep saying yes. In our case, they’ve already said yes to the big question; they’ve made a purchase. We’re trying to keep the momentum going past the sale and into the product unboxing. By maintaining contact with customer pre-delivery, you’re making that pull toward a happy conclusion a little stronger. In various ways, you’re telling them ‘you made a good decision, you’re going to be happy when your product arrives, you are a smart shopper…’ Once the customers internalize those messages, they’ll start repeating them to themselves and others, expanding your branding statements even further.What are some ways that you can create positive anticipation that can add to your customer’s experience?
Shopping online is great for selection. It seems that no matter what you’re after, you can easily find multiple vendors willing to ship it to your door. The age old knock on e-commerce is that you don’t get your hands on your product before you buy. Or even after you buy – not immediately anyway. You have to wait.
That’s why your heartbeat might speed up a bit when you spy a brown box on your front step. The virtual experience you had a few days before has now shown up in the real world. You’ve already paid and endured the waiting and now the payoff is here. Will the product be right or will you be disappointed? There is even more anxiety if you’re trying a new vendor – are they legitimate? Or did you just get ripped off by a shady scammer?
Once the box is opened, all is revealed. It’s a make or break moment for an online business. How the customer reacts will determine whether or not they remember your name, how they’ll review you online and what they’ll tell their friends. The moment of unboxing can be great for business or it can be a lost opportunity for growth.
In Pow! Right Between the Eyes, Andy Nulman encourages marketers to use the power of surprise to make an impression. It’s relatively easy, can be extremely inexpensive and remarkably effective. So why not apply that wisdom to the critical moment of unboxing and give yourself the chance to maximize the opportunity?
That’s just what MFM Apparel does when they deliver their unique t-shirts, illustrated with quirky characters. The resident artist, Saman, draws a small cartoon and message for each order that goes out the door. It’s an unexpected, personal touch that reaches customers at that critical moment. The rest of the process was pretty mundane when I shopped at MFM – browse for a shirt, check out online and wait for it to show up in the mail. The shirt was delivered in a boring white mailer too. But the surprise message inside was fun and memorable – surprises usually are. And during the unboxing, the fun of the unexpected extra rubs off on the product which rubs off on the vendor. And here we are.
If you’re selling online, consider carefully what your customers will experience when they open up your box. And if you’re interested in powerful word of mouth marketing, consider using the element of surprise to make sure that experience is a positive one.
It seems that everyone is opening up online these days. Tools for lifestreaming like Twitter and Posterous encourage publishers to share all kinds of details – how else are you going to fill a 24 hour day? Each person has a different idea of what’s appropriate to post in a public forum but there are implications for the reader who digests all of these personal details as well.
Flipping through the channels last night, I ended up watching a rerun of Extreme Make Over Home Edition, usually good for a heartwarming story. The Kadzis family was featured and they seem very deserving of a new house, having adopted several special needs children and working in their community. What made last night’s show so unusual was that the day before the crew arrived to start on the new house, George Kadzis was rushed to the hospital, seriously ill. They knew that he had cancerous brain tumors and he had just taken a turn for the worse. The rest of the show made me feel a little strange because while all of the cool, entertaining things going on at the house were happening against the depressing backdrop of George’s deteriorating condition. The segments where ABC interviewed the family were especially awkward and I kept feeling like I shouldn’t be watching it. It was too personal. Even ABC recognized there were some moments too sacred to be broadcast and agreed not to film George in his hospital room. (Although they did have cameras there and included some wide shots with his face blurred.)
With that experience fresh on my mind, I was made aware of another person’s turn for the worse this morning via Twitter. Baby Stellan has a serious heart condition. The only reason I know that is that his mom writes about her children, including Stellan’s struggles, at her blog. The blog is well written with beautiful photography and has a lot of dedicated readers.
Once I was made aware of the story from a Twitter friend, I could easily follow the unfolding events by reading MyCharmingKids.net, following the #Stellan hashtag or reading MckMama’s own Twitter feed (Stellan’s mom.) Seeing the resulting stream of activity is just heartbreaking.
In both cases, I felt surprisingly sad for people I’d never met before. There’s nothing wrong with that; I think we’re all called to have empathy. But it does take an emotional toll when you take on the worries of others.
The solution, of course, is to turn off the source if it becomes a problem. That’s easy enough when you’re talking about turning off a TV show but it’s a little more difficult in the always-on, everyone’s-a-publisher world of lifestreaming. I don’t have any answers for this one, just processing out loud.
Please pray for Stellan and spread the word as appropriate. If you’d like to, you can add a graphic to your Twitter avatar to help raise awareness. Likewise, pray for the Kadzis family. You can also make a donation by following the instructions here.
It’s easy to ignore an acceptable business transaction, one that fulfills all or most of a customers expectations. But if a company can deliver the must-haves first AND surprise the customer with more, it will be hard for the customer to avoid spreading the word. I ordered some business cards from Moo the other day. They are not like other web based printing companies and that’s a good thing. The thing that made my experience really fun and memorable, and the reason I’m writing about it now, is what happened days after I left their website. Moo.com is not for everyone. The cards are expensive compared to other vendors online and the turnaround time is an unimpressive 5 business days. The design choices are neat but have very limited options for customization and there is no phone support. From a logical, features point of view, the site really doesn’t cut it. But Marketing is not all about logic. It was easy enough to get my cards designed and I finished my order feeling okay about the whole process. They even sent me order confirmation details from a fictional personality named Little Moo, using snarky, sarcastic language. Fun, but a lot of people are doing that these days. My view of Moo went from ordinary to remarkable when I got my cards in the mail.
Instead of packing the cards into a big brown box, they were delivered in a sturdy, handsome desktop display. The Moo logo is subtly included on the box in silver foil and my cards look great stacked inside. True to their personality, they also included an extra business card printed with a meeting crossword game, just for fun. The effect was that I immediately wanted to show them off. It feels good to see your name on a high quality item and I was excited about the display. It was unexpected. The carrier itself makes you want to slide out a few cards and start handing them out. For companies producing personalized products, the moment of unboxing is critical. When I was shopping around for a business card vendor, I compared the features like a rational shopper. But when I was opening up the packaging, I was excited to see what I would receive – at a fulcrum point for potential experiences. By nailing the product packaging and including surprise extras, Moo left a great final impression.
The attention to detail may cost a little more in materials and product development time. But the differentiation created and emotions produced make it worth it.