Are you looking out windows or looking into mirrors?

In this context, looking out windows means taking input and feedback from the world outside of your organization and yourself – what your customers want. Looking into mirrors means gathering all the information from within your organization – what you want or think customers should want. Obviously, marketers need external information from the customers, unless their target market is themselves and/or their organization, which is almost never the case.

This is a different spin on the Mirror Effect. That’s when one person mirrors another’s body language, tone, and words to make that person think they’re on the same page, the same team. Mirroring is a very effective sales strategy and it’s similar with marketing efforts beyond sales. In marketing, we want to mirror what the target market wants and look outside of what we’d typically say by listening to our customers.

Get started with seeing how looking into mirrors manifests itself by observing those around you. Whenever you’re in a marketing meeting, pay attention to the way people frame their feedback:

  • I don’t like that
  • I want us to present a brand that emulates _________
  • I hate the color purple
  • I want to create a customer journey that accomplishes _________
  • I think feature X is really what differentiates us in the market

How to look out windows

Create buying personas

Know who you want to sell to, who your target market is. Think about their personalities, how they make decisions, when they buy, how they buy, and what they expect from the companies they buy from. If you sell a seasonal product, the timing of your big marketing campaigns will be critical to your sales success. If your customers are high earners, they’ll probably want bells and whistles, premium service, and unique ways to feel pampered and valued.

Listen to your customers

Current customers are some of the best people to get information about your target market from, assuming you want to continue serving the same market(s). Depending on your goals and resources, you may choose to focus on a particular subset of your current customers or take a more general approach, such as sending a satisfaction survey to every customer. Repeat customers are best for learning why customers continue. New customers are best if you want to understand what’s bringing people to your business.

Talk to target customers

Target customers are those ideal buyers you’d most like to sell to. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at this for a while, understanding your target customers and keeping up with how they evolve over time is key to long-term success. Think of some of the early tech startups like Facebook. Their first customers were all in school. You had to have a .edu email address to get an account. Now Facebook is a marketplace, a job posting site, several other things and their users skew older. Their marketing strategy has had to change along with their market.

Evaluate the influencers in your target market

Influencers can be individual people on social media, media outlets, or anyone who is successfully earning your target market’s attention. What are they doing to engage your target market? How does that compare to or contrast with your current marketing activities? What would you need in order to use some of the tools in their toolboxes?

How to avoid looking into mirrors

If everything behind the marketing strategy makes perfect sense to you, or you could have written it yourself with no help from anyone else, you’re either a marketing genius or you’re looking into mirrors. Self awareness in this situation will mean taking the steps to stay or get back on track. We can’t diagnose you from here, so these are a few things you can do to help yourself and your organization.

Regularly take a step back

The daily grind can make it easy to get stuck in details. You need to ensure the next marketing campaign will be successful, so you work late every night for a month. Then the next campaign starts and you’re doing the same thing all over again. This cycle won’t naturally give you time to step back and ask why or how to do it better, or any other question about the bigger picture. You can’t work on something when you’re in it. Taking a step back has to be a conscious choice, so put it on your calendar and don’t let it be rescheduled. This is a valuable exercise no matter your role. This broader view is good for the organization and your career to understand how your work is contributing to organizational goals.

Ask for external input from trusted sources

Include colleagues outside your organization, close personal friends, or anyone else whose input you value. The point is to learn through someone else’s eyes how that last marketing campaign went, where the market is going, and who the newcomers are. External feedback will, ideally, give you impartial feedback. It doesn’t sugarcoat things because of a sentimental interest in your success or put your work through the meat grinder to throw you off.

Know and review your key metrics

Whether it’s Lifetime Value of your customers (LTV), your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), your Net Promoter Score (NPS), and/or any other metrics, you and your team need to know them and ensure they are always the right ones to be tracking. We’ve probably all worked for a company where the dashboard stayed the same longer than it should have. Not only is this a waste of space and time to calculate the unnecessary metrics, it can also degrade the value your team places on the dashboard. They could believe no one’s really paying attention or the higher-ups don’t understand the market. Either way, change is necessary.

These are all examples of things we say when we are looking in the mirror, when we’re looking at our business as a reflection of ourselves. If we are looking through a window, we would wonder what makes someone else tick, we would try to wrap our brand around the values that our customers have, we would work to design visuals that resonate with them, we would understand that the customer journey is not something for us to create, only to try to enhance, we would ask our market what our most meaningful point of differentiation is. 

Look out the window and study the world outside. You are guaranteed to learn things about your business that you never knew before.

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