Do you understand what makes your customers tick? Really?

Summer’s here – or at least, in theory it is. It’s mid-August, school is out, and people are on holiday. Never mind that it’s only 15 degrees and we’ve seen more rain in the past few weeks than for the last year. And what’s a little bad weather anyway when it comes to enjoying yourself? Slip on your takkies, pull out the braai and have a lekker jol. Come again? I hear you say. Has he taken leave of his senses? Well no. Or rather, yes, temporarily, but it’s all in a good cause. Stick with me, and it’ll become clear. If you understand any of the lingo above, chances are you’ve spent some time either in South Africa, or with South Africans. And in the process, you’ve tuned in to the way they talk. So you know that it’s time to slip on your trainers (it being warm and all), pull out the barbecue and have a grand old time. And if you haven’t been to SA or mixed with Seffricans, perhaps you’ve simply taken the time to read Visit Britain’s latest market profiles. Released in advance of the London Olympics, they’re a mine of useful information on the cultural quirks of tourists who are expected to flood to these shores in two years’ time.

Don’t mention the…

If a Japanese person smiles at you, what should you assume? That they’re not happy, of course. Be careful when pouring wine for an Argentinian – do it backwards and they’ll take offence. Arabs don’t like being told what to do and Indians can appear rude. Try not to wink at somebody from Hong Kong. If a South African says they were held up at the robots, they simply mean the traffic lights were against them. (Unless they really were held up at the traffic lights, in which case I’d change the subject if I were you.) Never call a Canadian an American. And never mention the war to… …a Mexican, of course. That would be the US-Mexican War of 1846-8, naturally. But then I expect you knew that.

Knowing me, knowing you

Behind the odd assortment of mildly amusing national traits is a serious purpose, of course. Visit Britain wants to make sure that even more people do what 30m have done annually in recent years. Visit Britain. And sensitising hoteliers, restaurateurs and other tourism professionals to the cultural differences is a powerful way of giving customers what they want.

The lives of others

When you’re communicating with clients, prospects and…well, with anyone you want to communicate with, you need to remember one simple rule. It’s not about you. It’s about them. So how do you connect with them? Well how about trying to :
  • Lose yourself. Here’s a simple exercise: pick up the first piece of marketing material that comes to hand, or check out your website. Right now. Take a random page, and see how many times you use we or us. Now count the instances of you. See what I mean?
  • Adapt your style. Or rather, styles. When you’re talking to people, one size fits one, so don’t use the same tone for everybody. And if you are addressing a mass audience, imagine yourself talking to one or writing for one. The perfect, ideal, 100% fits-the-profile client. Conjure them up, make them real and address them directly.
  • Dig around. Are your audience young or old? Married or living together? Straight or gay, rich or poor, or somewhere in the middle (between rich and poor, I mean)? The more you know, the more you’ll connect with them. Don’t know? Find out. You’ll be glad you did (and so will they).
  • Follow the money. Where do your customers hang out? Be there. Blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook. Whatever it takes to find out more, see what they’re saying and adapt your message.
It’s only by defining your target audience – as Visit Britain’s detailed market profiles do – that you can make sure your marketing strikes gold. It’s basic stuff, but all too easily forgotten. As I discovered a while back, when I took a call from a potential client. “And who’s your target market?” I asked. “Target market?” she said, as if I’d asked her the square root of pi. There was a long pause, and much shuffling. “He wants to know who our target market is,” she said finally to her colleague, her hand muffling the sound as she covered the mouthpiece. “Target market?” he said. “Hmm.” More shuffling. And then the line went dead. Oh dear, I thought. She’s cut herself off. She’ll call back in a minute. But that was six months ago. Rude, I hear you say? No, no. I’m sure it’s just cultural. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. Find out more: