Meeting Your Customer Where They Are

There are so many people that I know now who have largely stopped watching television entirely or at the very least have given up on broadcast television.  The changes in technology have rendered the traditional form of scheduled TV pretty much pointless.

The easy answer is to say that the issue is convenience, people watch what they want, when they want to watch it.  Personally, I think that’s only touching on the superficial explanation behind this change in viewing habits.

The other significant challenge is with the plethora of content options available.  You have HBO making amazing programs like Game of Thrones, Netflix developing shows like Jessica Jones and Narcos or even providers like Hulu are coming out with good shows like Casual or 11.22.63.  There is just so much good content out there that customers are spoiled for choice.

But taking those things into account, there’s an old marketing adage that comes to mind and it’s along the lines of the subject of this blog post, “Meeting your customer where they are.”

So what does that mean?

What we’re talking about here is understanding that your customer is in a certain place right now in terms of their thinking, what they are looking for and where they are in their journey and your job is to present what you have to offer in such a way that it meets their needs at this moment in time.

That’s a fair bit to take in, so let’s allow that to digest for a second and go back to our television conversation.

The easy answer to why people are tuning out of broadcast television is because it’s convenient to watch things on PVR without ads or by streaming the content they want – that’s simplistic.  What we’re not addressing is the “why”.  Technology and the pressures of modern life have accelerated things, made us operate faster and become more selfish with our time.  As a result, this has resulted in a need for us to seek out things that are more convenient.

Think about it, when I was younger, we watched NBC’s Thursday night lineup every week because we had no compelling reason not to.  Now, families are opening Hulu and watching what they want to watch when it suits them, not at 8PM Eastern time on a Thursday night.  It’s convenient BECAUSE it suits their slightly altered and accelerated pace.

The second thing to think about when we talk about meeting the customer where they are at is around choice.  Going back to the NBC Thursday night point – if you didn’t want to watch the Cosby Show, Cheers or in later years, Seinfeld and Friends, you were pretty much stuffed.  The other networks wouldn’t really compete with those shows, so on Thursday nights, you watched sitcoms or you were stuffed.

That’s not meeting the customer where they are, that’s telling them where they should be and when you want them to be there.  This is really telling people to pick the best of a bad lot and enjoy what they get.  If you weren’t a comedy fan on Thursday nights then really, you were looking at reading a book or making small talk with your family, heaven forbid.

That’s where the on-demand services like Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu have worked so well in the US because they touch on all those boxes.  They meet the customer where they are – if you’re a grown man, taking a day off work, sitting on your sofa at 2:30pm, eating cold day old pizza by yourself and you want to fire up a newly created episode of the classic cartoon, Voltron then Netflix can make that happen for you.  Or perhaps you want to see one awkward teenage boy struggle for acceptance in his small town by taking on the role of high school mascot in the show Behind The Mask, then Hulu has you covered.

They give the customers a wide range of options, easily available to them when they choose to explore and use it.

But, it wouldn’t be modern media if they didn’t somehow figure out a way to screw that up.

I live in Australia, so I get a neutered version of Netflix, Stan and Presto.  Our incumbent large cable company, Foxtel, is massively successful and uses their financial might to gobble up content rights in Australia.  Foxtel, partially owned by the right hand of Satan, Rupert Murdoch, has heavily invested in set-top box infrastructure (that’s really terrible) and an outdated model of broadcast television that we pay stupid rates for.  Foxtel routinely buys the rights to great content and simply doesn’t show it… Ever.

Foxtel doesn’t meet me where I’m at, they take me out to the desert, put a bag over my head, kick me in the giblets and tell me to make my own way home.  Sometimes I even give up on the notion of being the customer and I try to meet Foxtel where they’re at and even that fails – all for the privilege of paying them $100/mth to be frustrated.

As a result of the stupidity with content rights, services like Amazon Prime and Hulu aren’t legally available to me in Australia because it doesn’t stack up financially for those companies to operate here.  Technology being what it is, the geniuses at Foxtel have effectively turned their customers into pirates if they want to access Hulu or Amazon Prime content.

That’s almost the antithesis of meeting your customer where they are at.

I faced this when I was starting the Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter.  There were two particular problems I was facing:

1) I needed to identify my potential customers, figure out the journey they were on and create something that delivered them help, advice and guidance in a way that best served them when they discovered it; and,

2) Logistically speaking, a physical newsletter needs to be delivered, so there’s a practical element that comes into play with respect to this which we’ll discuss in a bit.

Going through those points, I knew who my initial customers looked like in my mind’s eye from the very beginning.  My ideal customers were people who were looking to start a business on the side or in addition to something they were already doing.  I spoke at length about my avatars for Casual Marketer, so you can read those if you want.  At a high level though, people who wanted to start and run their own business while still working or the stay-at-home mom who wanted to explore the business side of her passion are the kinds of people I was speaking to.

While I had a clear view of WHO my customers were, I needed to think about how I wanted to help them about WHERE they were at in their journey.

That part has been a bit more challenging.  For people reading this who get my daily emails, what I’m offering is more about mindset and encouragement.  You might be thinking about starting down the road of entrepreneurship or maybe you’ve been trying and having false starts.  Either way, my daily emails are there to share my insights and help move you forward.

For my Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter members, the newsletter delivers a slightly more tactical and cerebral approach to building their business.  People who commit to joining the newsletter are people that take action and want to move ahead.  They are at a place in their journey where they want insights in HOW to do or think about certain things in running their online business on the side or preparing to transition to full-time.

Those two audience groups are in different places, so I meet each where they are, rather than trying to find some middle ground that doesn’t suit them.  I want to be Hulu or Netflix, not Foxtel or NBC.

The second point around the physical nature of the newsletter was pretty interesting and again has parallels to the TV analogy I’ve been using.

One of the biggest questions I get all the time around the newsletter is, “I live in XYZ, do you ship the newsletter here?”

The short answer is, “Yes I do!”  It was something that I worked out from day one of the idea, I wanted to deliver a physical product that turned up in your mailbox once a month, how could I make that globally available.  I didn’t want to be like Hulu or Amazon Prime and tell people, “Sorry, you live in Slovenia, you can’t have my newsletter.”

I set myself a task to ensure that I could LITERALLY meet my customer where they were at anywhere in the world.  Interestingly, the very first annual member of the newsletter was a chap named Alex who lives in a Fjord in the Netherlands.  If I can deliver the newsletter to a Fjord, you can get it just as easily in Vancouver or Barcelona.  That speaks to the seamless experience and convenience element.

There’s a ton of parallels and business lessons you can learn from watching how TV has evolved over the last ten years.  To me though, it’s all about being customer-centric in your approach so that everything you do and create speaks to them in a specific place in their journey and is easy for them to consume when it’s convenient.  You want your business to be considered a valuable addition, rather than an archaic nuisance for your customer.

I look at customers like this now, they are on a journey and the new way of travelling is to pack lightly and pick up what you need along the way, when you need it.  I want to be there when they need me, be easy to access and timely in my delivery of value.

That’s the secret to meeting your customer where they are at.

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