What language do your customers speak? This being the big wide world of the internet, the literal answer to that could be any one of dozens, but that’s not what I mean. The real answer is that they speak their own language, and if that’s different than the one you use when you speak to them, you might be in trouble.
Your customers will have their own way of describing your products, their own way of describing how to use them and their own way of recommending them to each other. As I discussed in NPS and you, getting an active recommendation from our customers is amongst the most powerful results our marketing can achieve. Understanding in detail how our customers come to recommend our brand requires us first of all to listen to their language.
One of the lessons you learn when you really listen to your customers is about the names they give to bits of your product or service. Does a pay-as-you-go mobile customer actually refer to a “top-up” when they add money to their account, or do they use a different word? Does your frequent flyer customer actually refer to your frequent flyer programme by the name you slaved over, or do they refer to it as “air miles” – even more irritating when it’s someone else’s brand?! Do they talk about adding an additional service from you as “upgrading” or just as buying something else?
So the lesson is that we need to talk to our customers about our brand and products in the language that they use if we are to make ourselves easy to understand. If we want to change the language that customers use, that’s a worthwhile objective but it needs a marketing campaign in its own right and will take time to deliver. There is no use just assuming that if we dogmatically refer to our “loyalty programme benefits” that our customers will stop talking about our “discount coupons”.
The difference between the language our customers use and our internal terminology becomes a particular problem when we accidentally use that terminology in our external communications. I’ve actually rung a subscription business with a view to closing my account to be put through to someone who announced “hello, this is x from the Customer Turnaround team”! Not the best way to open a conversation which was, for that brand, a critical one in their relationship with me as a customer.
Do you really know how your customers describe your brand and your products when they talk to each other? If not, how are you going to find out? Are you ready to drop your own terminology and forget your own in-depth knowledge of your industry (all those lovely acronyms!) and really listen to your customers?
Once we start listening to our customers, we’ll quickly realise that they are not only telling us what they think of us and our products. There are also clues in their language about which marketing messages they will respond to most. A good understanding of how language, psychology and marketing fit together is a recipe for very effective marketing – more on that next time.