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Walk Among Your Customers

Knowing who you’re serving is critical to good storytelling

When it comes to producing content and marketing to her customers, Jen Jones has a huge advantage.

These days, there’s a lot of talk around the idea of customer empathy, and for good reason. Knowing who your customers are, their hopes and dreams, their challenges and problems is a key ingredient to creating great content that resonates with them.

It comes easy to Jones.

As the owner of New Love City, a yoga studio nestled in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, Jones knows what her customers, or clients want. Because she is one of her customers.

She’s a resident of the Greenpoint neighborhood, a self-described “weirdo” who doesn’t fit into the usual corporate mold. She’s also a yoga enthusiast who isn’t keen on the pretense and self-importance that characterize a lot of yoga studios.

“There can be this air of condescending, phony baloney bullshit kind of approach to yoga where it doesn't really feel like the teacher believes in what they're offering,” she said.

She wanted a studio that was more fun, youthful, energetic, and stripped down, much like the neighborhood is. But there was no such studio.

So she started one.

She built her studio for herself and the people of Greenpoint, and she’s built her brand around the aesthetic and the sensibilities of the neighborhood.

“People here are looking for things that are genuine versus mass scale,” she said. “So that was something that I was tapping into in building the studio.”

Jones has a connection and an intimacy with her customers that keeps her brand relevant and vibrant. She uses New Love City as a platform to not only help her clients to be active, but also to celebrate them.

“The whole thing doesn't exist without our client base, our students, um, we try and incorporate their voices as much as possible,” she said.

The Lesson for Businesses

Stories and storytelling are powerful means to get people to pay attention to your message and be moved to the action you want them to take. Those stories can take many forms, and there are many ways to connect with people. But it all starts with knowing your audience.

And not just knowing them a little bit, like their income and what TV shows they watch. But really know them and what’s important to them. Walk among them.

Then celebrate them. Tell their stories. It’s not about you. It’s not about your products or services.

Sure, it’s easy for someone like Jones. She runs a small, neighborhood business and sees her customers every day. At this point, she hasn’t experienced the gap that forms between a company and their customers when they grow and scale.

But that’s not an excuse! Companies of all sizes should find ways to get to know their customers.

How they can do that varies.

Social media provides an excellent avenue for continually listening to, and engaging with customers.

The customer service and sales departments are also fertile ground, especially for B2B companies. These are the people who interact with customers on a daily basis, and are familiar with their challenges and frustrations.

Some companies are quite intentional about having their marketing and other executives meet, talk, and hang out with customers on a regular basis.

There are endless ways to approach maintaining (or regaining) touch with your customers. How you do it will depend on the nature of your business.

But you must do it.

Incidentally, it’s not just customers I’m talking about. It depends on your organization and your audiences. For HR departments, it might be employees. For nonprofits, it might be donors. For higher education, it might be students.

Whatever the situation, getting to know the people you need to communicate with – walking among them – is critical to good storytelling.

Photo credit: Todd Schmiedlin

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