Struggling to get client feedback – a spaghetti sauce example

“The mind knows not what the tongue wants.” – Howard Moskowitz

In the early 1980s, Prego spaghetti sauce fought a losing sales battle against Ragu. Prego hired Howard Moskowitz to identify a way to better satisfy consumers. Moskowitz created over forty variations of pasta sauce and traveled around the United States asking people to taste the different sauces on pasta and rank each one. After conducting these tests, Moskowitz found three clear sauce preferences: plain, spicy, and extra chunky. Extra chunky was the most surprising result because extra chunky spaghetti sauce options didn’t exist on the market and no consumer had ever expressed an interest in chunky tomato sauce [1].

This brings us to our marketing lesson of the day: people do not always tell you want they really want.

As a business owner, this can be frustrating! When your goal is to serve your target clients and they cannot even be honest with you, it is enough to make anyone feel defeated. But don’t get down just yet, because we have a few ideas on ways to combat this in your marketing.

To hear more from your audience, there are three methods we’ll discuss today to help you: check that your business is listening, study actions, and test different options with your clients.

Sometimes your target audience is trying to tell you what they want, but your business does not take the time to listen. From a marketing perspective, there are a few key strategies your business can use to up your listening game.

1) Share your contact information: This may seem like common sense, but many businesses miss this step. Be sure to tell your current and prospective clients how they can reach you. This can include sharing your business’s website, phone number, email address, physical address,
business hours, and social media profiles when you communicate with your clients. For example, you can include this information on your business cards, social media profiles, and emails.

2) Engage with your client base on social channels: When a customer emails you, do you email them back? Most likely your answer to this question is yes. But what about this question: When a customer comments on your social media do you respond? Generating and sharing content on social media is half the battle; you also must engage with your client base in order to truly be a part of the social community. Even if it is just replying “thank you,” your business should be responding and encouraging client feedback through messages and comments.

3) Tell the world that you are open to feedback: Market that your business is looking to learn through feedback. Your business can do this through social media polling and questions, sending surveys, and adding a feedback section to your website. Another method to hear more from your audience is to study actions. We all know a self-proclaimed “gym fanatic” who only works out once a month. That is a perfect example of a disconnect between actions and words. As a business you will need to “listen” more to your clients’ and prospects’ actions than their verbal and written feedback. This means using data — email open and click-through rates, website traffic reports, social media engagement, purchase histories, etc. — to track your target market’s actions. You may feel like Monday morning is a good time to send out your newsletter, but you might have a 20% increase in open rates when you send on Wednesday afternoons.

The last way to hear more from your audience is to test different options with your clients. In the Howard Moskowitz example, he created over 40 different spaghetti sauce variations to discover what Americans wanted [1]. Sometimes your clients do not actually know what they want. Giving them different options to choose from can help them decide. When you create a variety of options to show your client and ask them to choose, this takes the work of creating alternatives off the client. For example, in email marketing, you can try different subject lines, senders, designs, verbiage, and send times to name a few. Track this data to find out what your audience prefers. Trying different methods with your marketing will help you define what your clients do want.

To recap, try (1) checking that your business is listening, (2) studying actions, and (3) testing different options with your clients. People might not always say what they want, but these strategies can help your business discover the ingredient, the secret sauce, to a successful marketing plan.



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