Are you trying to figure out what your customer wants?  Well, some fancy marketing person may try to get you to segment your customers into all kinds of “graphics”.  Do you want to target customers of a certain income level?  How about gender?  Age?  Or perhaps you should turn to psychographics that separate individuals by their interests, attitudes and aspirations.

The issue is that sometimes, assumptions are made that go into creating or analyzing this data that don’t really capture customer behavior, because hey, we’re human and we tend to act out of emotion more often than rationality. Also, data is sometimes misleading.

I have been inundated with products for my new baby when I am not pregnant and not planning to become pregnant.  However, that same retailer is missing the opportunity to market cosmetics to me, which I buy practically in bulk (yes, I have a problem).  When I went to buy my car, I went in casual gym clothes.  I guess I didn’t look like a serious buyer, because 3 salespeople ignored my husband and me, probably because we didn’t fit into the “-graphics” profile.  However, salesman #4 got the commission when we drove out of the dealership an hour later with a new car.  Do you know why he got the sale?  He didn’t rely on demographics or psychographics.  No, he instead relied on verbographics- that is, he asked us.  We told him what we were there to do and then it was clear that we were real prospects.

All of the marketing psychology in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t ask questions and dialogue with your customers.  Customers are very complex and you can no longer assume that the guy with tattoos at Brooks Brothers won’t drop cash on a wardrobe or that the lady with the fur coat is going to be the most likely customer to by the Jaguar that day.   You should be talking to customers to understand their wants and needs.  They may not be able to articulate what exactly it is that they want, but if you ask the right questions, you should be able to get a good sense of where you stand with your customers.

Whether you are in a large or small business, technology gives you unparalleled access to your customers and potential customers. Stop relying on numbers, data and theories and talk to your customers.  That will give you more answers than any spreadsheet, survey or profile ever can.

And if you are having trouble focusing in on your target market, try going to where your product or service is sold and casually watching how they interact with what is in front of them. You can learn a lot without spending a dime on a consultant.