Marketing: Have you met your new customers?

As Iowa reopens, we are being greeted by brand-new customers. Even if they look like our old customers, they’ve been changed. Two+ months of isolation, deprivation, and raw emotions can alter anyone’s perspective.

We have to remember that we’re not to the new normal yet. We’re in the temporary, abnormal phase of reentry. What complicates this phase is that no two people are reacting to the idea of our state’s reopening in the same way.

That makes the decisions you need to make as you invite your clients back to your location a little less black and white. Please do not make the mistake of assuming your customers will behave the way they did pre-COVID. Typically people don’t change much in 60 days. But there’s not all that much that is normal right now.

The discomfort and nerves are showing up in a wide range of reactions. Between COVID and the protests, it’s no wonder that most people are a confused cocktail of emotional responses. You’re going to interact with customers who are exhibiting a mix of fear, frustration, anger, and delight at being able to leave their homes. These emotions are distorting people’s perspectives and expectations. Some will be so happy to be interacting with you in person, they won’t notice much else.

Others will be so anxious that they’ll notice everything.

How do you meet their expectations? It starts with understanding what they are. If there were ever a good time for a customer survey, June 2020 is it. A recent study done by Accenture identifies five new consumers that we’re all going to encounter.

Twenty-one percent of consumers are worriers. They are typically 56- to 69-year-olds who have some underlying conditions that make them take the stance that they’re not willing to take any chances.

Twenty-two percent of them are what Accenture called the individualists. They’re more frustrated by people acting stupid by hoarding toilet paper than they are about being exposed to the virus. They tend to fall in the 18- to 24-year-old range.

Thirty-nine percent of consumers would be considered rationalists. They are not concerned and believe that all they can do is to keep things clean and hope others do the same. They tend to fall into the 25 to 31-year-old age group.

The activist subgroup is about 8% of the population. They believe it is their social responsibility to socially distance. They also tend to be in the 25 to 31-year-old age group.

Eleven percent of the population is indifferent. They think the situation has been seriously blown out of proportion. This attitude is most prevalent in 40- to 55-year-olds.

As you build out your survey, be sure you ask your customers how they feel about some of the changes you’ve had to make during COVID. What may surprise you is that they fully expect you to keep the modifications they personally like. Whether it’s to-go margaritas or private shopping by appointment, you may be planning to abolish something you thought of as a temporary fix, and they saw it as a valuable enhancement.

Another insight you’ll need to probe to identify is exactly what will make your clients feel like it’s safe to come back to your location. They may be ready to be out and about but are they ready to come back specifically to your establishment? This is a dangerous place where many assumptions live. Some consumers will absolutely feel safer if you require everyone to wear a mask. Others will choose to avoid any business that has that policy.

It’s always been smart marketing to have a deep understanding of what your customers are thinking and feeling. Right now, as we navigate these completely uncharted waters, it’s essential.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.