We’ve been polling consumers for over a century now, but can the lessons of the past be applied to today’s realities? Is there any difference in the psychological makeup of a modern-day customer in China and one living in 1910s’ North America? If so, what is it? A company’s success and failure can lie in its ability to answer these questions.
In a world where consumers have access to a wealth of information, where they have an abundance of alternatives to choose from and where geographic location is no longer a major barrier, new behaviours and new opportunities have emerged.
So what should, say, a young company know about providing tourism services to Chinese consumers? In a context of intercultural market expansion, how do you go about differentiating this group from typical North American consumers? How do both subsets perceive air or bus travel, for example? What kind of value do they place on the various options already available to them? And how can businesses tap into this new and potentially lucrative share of the market more effectively than their competitors?
This is the kind of detail that will help you get into your customers’ heads, under the expert guidance of Darren Dahl, a professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business, during the upcoming Executive Education HEC Montréal seminar on “Understanding the Customer for Better Marketplace Success”
Dahl’s football player–like stature may suggest that he embraces a take-no-prisoners approach to marketing. But his expertise in the psychology of consumer behaviour and creativity is much more nuanced than that. “The fact that consumers aren’t easy to read is a source of fascination to me. We may think that they behave rationally, that they have a pack mentality or that they simply copy what’s around them. But that’s not the way it works. They all have a mind of their own and are anything but rational,” explains Dahl, also a sought-after corporate consultant.
“One of the biggest problems facing today’s companies is a lack of empathy. They don’t have clear insight into what consumers want and need. No matter how immersed we are in the electronic world, we’re still dealing with human beings at pretty much every step of a business transaction. Understanding how people think and make decisions is just as important in a B2B setting as it is for B2C.”
Businesses of all sizes rely on data gathering and analytics tools for forecasting purposes. Behaviour analysis brings added value to this information, helping organizations be more agile in managing priorities and giving them an overall framework for putting various issues into context.
In his lectures, Dahl uses stories and characters to bring to life different marketing approaches and explain how they have shaped the course of some well-known companies. These examples are particularly useful in determining how we can influence, reach out to and interact with today’s consumers. Group exercises help participants learn from one another, challenge themselves and ask themselves probing questions.
Dahl is a believer in the importance of interactivity in the learning process. “When you really get something, you learn better and retain it for a longer amount of time. My course isn’t about me throwing a bunch of information out to participants. It’s a place where I strive to spark their interest, so they are more inclined to share with their fellow classmates, jump in and get their hands dirty, and pick up all sorts of tools they can put to good use right away when they get back to work. My job is to make all of this more accessible so that they are better strategic managers when they leave than they were when they got here.” Dahl’s skills as a creativity expert are also instrumental in helping participants sharpen (or dust off!) their reflexes in terms of setting themselves apart from the competition.