Steve Kaplan's Blog

June 27, 2011

Four Categories of Customer

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 9:21 am

Once you know what your customers are buying and why, you can generalize by putting customers into the four basic categories of need.

1. Quality Seekers

Quality Seekers buy only when the find what they consider the best product out there. Price is secondary.  They are savvy customers who comparison shop and research at length before they reach for their credit card. They want to know details about performance and materials- whatever makes your product or service the best.

Needs: The Quality Seeker wants to feel special- that she is getting the very best.

Buzzwords: performance, materials

What she’s thinking:

  • In a specialty store: What ingredients are used:
  • In an executive search firm: How do they screen applicants?
  • In a marketing company: What’s their bottom- line result?
  • With an online retailer: Which brand names are sold?

2. Service Seekers

Service Seekers need to feel you care about them, will do things for them, and won’t forget them after they buy. Warranties, guarantees, and service are the music to their ears. They want to know that any problem will be addressed right away.
Needs: The Service Seeker wants to be taken care of abd acknowedlged as significant.
Buzzwords: Convenience, customer service, warranties and returns
What he’s thinking:
  • In a specialty store: Can I find what I need and pay for it without standing in line? Do they deliver?
  • At an executive search firm: What’s my guarantee on candidates who are placed with us? What happens if they leave? Are they replaced?
  • In a marketing company:Who will manage my account? Will she be open to my requests?
  • At the dentist: Can I get a convenient appointment? Does the dentist run on schedule?
  • With an online retailer: Is buying easy and painless? Can I return things I don’t like? Is there online customer support?
3. Price Seekers
Price Seekers want to get the lowest price, even though they may be able to afford better quality and higher prices. The deal is what excites them. Businesses that guarantee to beat any competitor’s price warm their hearts.  For them, paying less than the next guy is a matter of pride.
Needs: The Price Seeker wants to feel she is a shrewd customer.
Buzzwords: Lowest price, sale, discount
What she’s thinking: 
  • In a specialty food store: If I buy two items, will I get the third for half off? Could I get the same item for less at a grocery store? Is there free gift-wrapping? Free delivery?
  • At an executive search firm: If I find my own candidate, will the firm lower its rates?
  • In a marketing company: Will the company reduce my rates if it fails to attract more customers?
  • At the dentist: How much will insurance pay? Are follow-up visits included int he price?
  • With an online retailer: Does it offer online promotions and discounts? Is buying online cheaper than buying offline? Will I get a coupon for answering an online survey?
4. Satisfaction Seekers
Satisfaction Seekers are motivated by status, security, and the approval of others. These cosnumers are influenced strongly by the following factors:
The cool factor. The customer buys a product, because it makes him feel part of the crowd. This is a powerful dynamic in the teen market, but adults fall prey to it as well- buying a particular brand of stroller for one’s child, using a specific landscaping company, choosing where to go on vacation, or even buying a certain brand of beer, because the right crowd drinks it.
The safety factor. The customer buys a product, because he believes it will protect him or someone he cares about. Think of the Michelin tire slogan: “There’s a lot of riding on your tires. The safety-conscious family consumer is this company’s target.
The job security factor. This factor emerges primarily when businesses buy products from other businesses. Corporate managers and executives tend to be wary of purchasing an unconventional product that may come back to haunt them. I often saw this fear in my marketing customers; potential clients accustomed to traditional programs like coupons were afraid they stood a greater chance of being penalized or even fired if my product didn’t work.
Needs: The Satisfaction Seeker wants to feel safe and enjoy a sense of belonging.
Buzzwords: Security, status, everyone has one
What he’s thinking:
  • In a specialty food store: If I walk around with bags from this store, will people think I buy only the best?
  • At an executive search firm: Should i use this firm even though my boss uses a different one?
  • In a marketing company: If I buy this new service, will I be putting myself at risk with my bosses if it doesn’t work out?
  • With an online retailer: Does the site make me feel i’m joining the pioneers in the online world by embracing the latest technology?
Once you understand how your customers perceive value, you’ve laid the foundation for developing the unique selling proposition and communicating it to the world.
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