Back when I was in college, I spent two summers (and two winters) working as an intern for MBNA America.
MBNA was a massive credit card company – specializing in affinity cards – whose headquarters were located in Ogletown, Delaware in the early 1990s.
At the time,the company was massive, and growing rapidly…and it would ultimately be sold to Bank of America for $35 billion in 2005.
But before all of that happened, I was a lowly intern there working in the IT department. It was an interesting internship, to be sure, with a fascinating company.
The company was very big into corporate culture. They had classical music piped in over the speakers in the hallways and common areas of all the buildings on their campus.
And they offered employees on-site perks such as a hair salon, gym, dry cleaning and full banking services. It was almost as though they never wanted anyone to leave work…
Anyway, one of the other parts of the MBNA culture at the time was the slogan they had painted over every doorway in every building: Think of yourself as a customer.
It was also on every notepad…every mousepad…you couldn’t escape it. And I’m not kidding – every single doorway had that painted just above it.
Think of yourself as a customer.
As a college kid, I was not really prepared to fully understand what that phrase meant. Sure, I understood it on some basic level…but it wasn’t until years later – long after I had left MBNA – when the phrase really began to resonate.
After graduating from college, my first full-time job was with Agora, Inc. And that’s where I received an amazing education in the world of direct marketing. (Thankfully I had let go of my desire for a career in IT.)
It was during my seven years at Agora when I finally began to understand how important it can be to think of yourself as a customer.
My first week at Agora was spent in the customer service department – not answering phones, but instead just sitting among the reps who did that all day long.
So it was hard not to get an understanding of what the customers’ most pressing issues were. (In those days of print-and-mail, most of the issues involved not receiving issues, bonus reports or other promised items.)
And as I worked in the fulfillment department – and then as a marketing director – we would often hear from our customer service team about what was happening in the world of our customer base.
That’s all standard business practice, of course – and part of the responsibility of providing great customer service.
And Agora was great about starting out many of their new hires in the customer service department. Some youngsters who started out answering phones for that company went on to build companies of their own – or launch successful newsletter services within Agora.
But as a marketer, those words – “Think of yourself as a customer” – can actually help you boost your results in a meaningful way.
Here’s what I mean:
If you’re writing copy to sell a product or service, you already do this. You think along with the customer as he or she is reading the copy. You try and answer any potential objections. And you insist on making the ordering process as simple as possible.
If you’re the marketing director – or product manager – you know how important it is to make sure your customer is treated well. You don’t bombard your customer with dozens of unnecessary marketing messages. You insist that your product or service is as strong as it can possibly be. And you make sure you’re delivering outstanding customer service at all times.
But take it a step further. Literally think of yourself as a customer. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
When developing a new product or service, ask yourself what your typical customer’s everyday life is like. Will the new product you’re developing improve his or her life? What could you do to make their life even easier?
If you’re writing the copy…what other messages is your customer seeing every day? What does he or she watch on television? Who are they listening to? Who are they reading?
If I’m working on a promotion for a joint pain supplement and the average customer is a 65-year-old male, I try to make sure I’m speaking the same language as he does at all times in the copy. I want to speak to his frustrations and fears…and appeal to his desire to live a pain-free life once again.
And the best way to do that is to understand what that person’s life is really like as much as I possibly can.
In other words…I need to think of myself as a customer.
If I’m trying to raise awareness for an under-the-radar tech company, I make sure to understand the target demographic for the advertisement I’m writing. After all, prospective tech investors are very different from oil-and-gas investors or goldbugs.
The only way I can speak effectively – and directly – to my audience is to try and see life as they see it. Again, I need to think of myself as a customer.
As a college kid, the other interns and I used to make fun of that slogan. I know now that we made fun of it because we didn’t truly understand it.
And all these years later I’ve discovered that there’s actually more wisdom in it than I ever could have imagined.
Jody Madron is a results-oriented copywriter with 30 years of breakthrough marketing experience. To learn how Jody can deliver results-boosting copy — ahead of your deadline — visit www.MadronMarketing.com.