Do your customers really understand you?

We all believe we know what we do and what benefits we offer potential clients. We put a lot of effort into our brand proposition and ‘elevator pitch.’ But it can be easy to be too close to our business and miss the very fundamentals that we take for granted.

I often lecture at universities on digital marketing to non-marketing students. I usually begin with a question, saying something like, “What is digital marketing… no, wait, first of all, what is MARKETING?”

As you can guess I get a lot of answers that are way off the mark, and hardly any that are near correct. That’s understandable because it’s not part of their day-to-day.

The question opens the door for me to present some definitions and introduce such ideas as the Marketing Concept and Philip Kotler’s thinking.

A good deal of the public misunderstanding and confusion may be blamed upon media misunderstanding and sloppy journalism. But it got me thinking: was I assuming that my business audience actually understand what we do?

Testing understanding

I do quite a bit of networking and often describe my business in broad terms as a marketing consultancy, brand marketing or marketing communications specialist. But always using the term ‘marketing‘ and assuming it means the same thing to my audience as it does to me.

So, I decided to put it to the test – I asked various groups of businesspeople: “What is marketing? What do you understand by the term?” The results were worrying. There were lots of muddled ideas but very few understood the basic concept – unless, that is, the people were from associated fields (and surprisingly, even some of them had fuzzy definitions).

This presented me with a dilemma. I was using a term in our brand descriptor which most of my prospects did not fully understand. Of course, in presenting my proposition I go to some lengths to describe what we can do and what benefits we can deliver. However as a basic brand communications issue, I had a lot of thinking to do.

Many other businesses may fall into the same trap. You may be so familiar with what you do that it’s easy to assume a similar understanding from audiences. They will have a broad idea (we hope) but some important nuances may be lost.

Take the step

My advice would be to try that basic test on your prospective audience – ask them what they understand about what you really do. It could give you valuable insight into how you define your brand and fine-tune your proposition.

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