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4 Things My Toddler Taught Me About Customer Segment Mapping

At three years old my toddler is completely obsessed with Star Wars, despite his limited exposure to the actual films. He runs around all day with his lightsaber and asks the librarian to call him Luke Skywalker. I’ll admit that we’ve encouraged this behavior, because it’s totally adorable. But it also means that if we contradict him — say, correct his name at the doctor’s office so they can pull up his records, or suggest he play with his trains because Daddy’s on the phone and can’t pretend to be Darth Vader right this second — get ready for a full-on melt-down. I mean a flailing, red-faced wailing mess of a mini-person. Because toddlers' hyper-focus makes them beyond brand loyal. This doesn’t just apply to Star Wars — it applies to pretty much everything. Books. Sandwiches. Songs. Whatever imaginative scenario pops into his head that we have to play out with the same toys over and over and over again for a week. Toddlers latch on and don’t easily let go. It’s how they work through an understanding of what’s going on around them and grow comfortable with the world they inexplicably find themselves in. It’s how they conceive ideas of their own identity, and their relationships with the people in their lives. It’s how they learn to become social beings. It’s intense. And getting a toddler on board with a new idea can be a challenge if you don’t time it right, position it in his terms, and give him the kind of stuff he actually wants. Marketers, sound familiar? Yep, toddlers are just like us — the most extreme versions of us, before we learn the arts of subtlety and self-editing. And that amplification means we can learn a lot from them about customer behavior. So without further ado, here’s what pitching new ideas to my toddler has taught me about the importance of customer mapping in any marketing communications strategy:

1. Identify when they’re CAPTIVE. When we’re stuck and bored, we’re more receptive to new ideas. An excellent time to hit up my toddler with new ideas are when he’s in his car seat, his stroller, or — yes — on his mini potty. (We’re training. With minimal success.) When he’s quite literally captive, anything new that fulfills the “surprise & delight” mantra will totally make his day. Think about your customer segment. What is her routine? Is there anything about his current day-to-day that sees him stuck somewhere, bored? How can you reach her there?

2. PROCRASTINATION time is gold. This can’t be understated. There are times when we all would rather be doing something — anything — other than the task at hand. So we look for something else to do, just for a minute (or so we tell ourselves). In adult terms we call this procrastination. In toddler terms, we call it the old nap time stall. This is by far the BEST time to hit my kid up with something new. Now that I’m thinking about it, this is probably when I should to get him to eat his greens. Anyway: Think about when, where, and how your customers are procrastinating. What are they likely to be doing to avoid whatever it is they’re trying to avoid and how can you meet them there right at that time? For some segments it may be that slim window before getting out of bed in the morning and others, the count-down to clocking out.

3. It’s all about the INSIGHTS. Anyone who has a young kid knows it’s really, really important for you to be very, very careful about how you tee things up. “Do you want to go to the grocery store?” is going to be met with a firm “no,” and it’s awfully difficult to walk back from there. “We’re going to to the grocery store in ten minutes and you can ride in the car cart [aside for non-parents: picture a large ride-in plastic car attached to a tiny shopping cart that’s impossible to navigate around the corners of crowded, narrow aisles] and pick out a treat and it’ll be SO fun!” Sure! Know what motivates your customer segment. Use it to position your message the right way, at the right time, in the right place. Which brings us to...

4. CONTEXT makes the content, or “Are you even listening to me?” How do you prevent the toddler tune-out: the half-skim scroll-by? Understand their behavior and fulfill a need. Even better?: Fulfill a need that they need fulfilled right then and there. Look at the opportunity you’ve identified on your customer segment map — where are they and what are they doing? What kind of content will complement, enhance, or improve that experience? Your customer may not even recognize the need — and that's even better, because you’ve just given them an “a-ha!” moment that will stick with them.

We all strive for greater and greater reach in our marketing messages, but at the end of the day engagement is a more valuable transaction with your customer. That’s why customer segment mapping is so important to any marketing campaign. If you can correlate WHAT your customer wants WHEN he or she wants it, you’re golden like a C3PO Hot Wheels car.


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