It’s Valentine’s Day, and most of you have plans and/or gifts for your life partner and family.  Some of you may even be rejoicing in last night's Galentine’s celebration. But what about the bread and butter of your business – your consumers?  Have you shown them your love and appreciation lately? Taking a cue from key steps to improve your personal relationships, the following are recommendations to ensure your relationship with your consumer is just as healthy.

1.  Humanize your consumer

Do you know your target audience intimately? Do you know what’s important to them and their issues with your company? Are you really listening to the information they are sharing with you in social and in person? You should treat your consumer as a human, and not a intangible factor in your business. It’s almost impossible to truly understand your consumer’s motivations, reasons and actions unless you listen to them with an open heart (your social channels and customer service teams are a great source of their need states).  Stop pushing your message and instead tailor it to what your consumers are yearning for.

2.  Look for consumers who share similar values

Are you targeting the right consumers who think like you do? Have you dissected not only their demographic characteristics, but also their psychographic profile to ensure it matches with the ethos of your business offering? Do you understand their backgrounds and decision journey (the way they come into your category)? It’s okay, and actually more profitable and efficient, to limit your target to a finite group of people. Not every consumer is a good fit.  Just like dating, you need to evaluate several targets and pass on those that won't fulfill your business objective: you need to find your perfect match. 

3.  Meet your consumer’s needs

After you understand your consumer and are targeting the same like minded individuals, you need to ensure that you are consistently offering what they are seeking.  There should be a succinct, easily identifiable, reason for your brand to delight (notice I didn't say meet) your target's functional and emotional wants.  This reason to believe should be audience-centric, not content-centric; your message should be phrased in language and tone that is representative of how your consumer would talk. Your brand should be a human connection that creates everyday value.  

4.  Grow Together...or Not

Your partner is not a static object, their needs change. The same goes for your company. Expecting both to remain the same is unrealistic and unfair. Iterative processes are essential in order to truly relate and connect. You should change your product offering based on what makes your target excited, except when it’s not profitable to change. Not every consumer and consumer need state is a match to your company's objective and growth plan; you can't always meet their needs. As each of you grow, you may need a new relationship status, whether that means graduating to a more serious commitment (marrying your consumer to your company as a brand ambassador) or severing ties. It's important to understand each stage that your consumer fills in your product life cycle and let go of those that are no longer profitable for your company.

5.  Stop trying to be ‘everything’ to your consumer

You can’t assume that you can offer everything that your consumer wants, just like you can’t expect your spouse can be like your parents or friends; each role has a different expectation and it's unrealistic to serve all of their needs. Every business has dissatisfied consumers that are impossible to appease; the faster you remove them from your targeting, the better off you will be. Don’t break your spirit or bank account by trying to be all things to your consumer.  Regularly scan the marketplace and your consumer set to identify the paths that are amenable to your goals and abolish any efforts that are not specifically addressing these need states. 

6.  Take care of yourself

How can you make your consumer happy if you are not satisfied internally? Do you have enough margin baked in to pay for all of your costs and provide a decent salary to you and your staff? Are your employees taken care of just as much as your consumers? Some of the most successful founders take an annual break to evaluate their internal metrics (SWOT, employee satisfaction, etc.) and then collaborate with their staff to alter their goals. Make sure that your company needs are being met so that you can truly serve your consumer. 

Any type of relationship, including those that are personal and those within your organization, requires work to ensure both parties are happy. In today's competitive marketplace, it's imperative that businesses develop a deeper and more meaningful relationship with their consumers. It's no longer about the functional benefits that your product provides, but the emotional connection that you have with your consumer. The most successful partners fall in love over and over again by applying these six rules. 

Start Something Solutions was created to bridge consumer needs and wants with company objectives. Our advisory firm helps you get to the heart of your target and align your product and marketing to what’s profitable and efficient for both parties. I also love donating my time and money to local startups.  Let me know how I can help bring more love to your business!