Listen to consumers to get smart on behavior

In direct-to-consumer marketing, we track consumer behavior with software cookies, CRM databases, data and other whiz-bang tools. Yet few of us realize the small steps that lead individuals to embrace new products or procedures. Short of taking cups and string to consumers’ doors, how do we get inside their homes and inside their heads? By paying attention to blogs, testimonials and success stories, that’s how. Here are four critical stages of consumer conversion I’ve culled from thousands of patient-written e-mails we receive at RealAge each year:

First, dramatic change often starts with a personal “aha” moment — a big bang, if you will. Serious life-changing events and experiences can propel consumers to action. It’s our job as marketers to surround potential consumers with information that engages, educates and motivates them to act.  That way, when the big bang occurs, the flurry of activity is unleashed around our product – not our competitors’.

Next, this moment often inspires a prolonged and frenzied education stage. By gathering information, consumers gain the wherewithal to call their doctors, schedule a procedure or seek a product at a drug store.

Health consumers in particular are highly motivated students who are more often turning to the Internet for their research. In the process, health information seekers call twice as many sources — disease awareness and prescription drug data — as the average online consumer. A staggering 75% of consumers share health information through community forums, ratings, tagging, blogs and more. 

To make sure your product’s merits rise to the head of the class, give prospective consumers the information they crave in an integrated campaign that employs multiple — and highly accessible — communication vehicles.

Now that the consumer recognizes your brand as the solution to his or her health problem, how do you ensure that he or she stays on course? Indeed, consumers want ongoing support, measures of success, strategies and advice. By offering them continuous education and resources, your product will stay relevant over the long haul.

Become part of a consumer’s success story and your job as a marketer is done. In this final stage, your customer becomes an evangelist, telling anyone who will listen, “This product/service changed my life.” On community forums, chat rooms, advocacy sites, and blogs, satisfied customers gain audiences previously limited to chance meetings of friends in grocery stores or among members of various groups.

Customers today have unprecedented opportunities to sell our products and reiterate their brand loyalty. By paying close attention to their success stories, we can gear marketing messages to their actual needs. We can ensure that the big bang reverberates, launching healthier product sales.

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