“Human” Approach to Winning Customers

March 2014, by So-Young Kang

Who are our customers? What segments should we target?

These are typically the first questions we ask in marketing, sales, or branding to better tailor our products and services to our customers.

We would typically answer these questions by starting to analyze the various customer target groups using available data like demographics, gender, age, and ethnicity. As we analyze the
data, we could look for common trends such as, “what percentage of customers aged 30-50 purchase Product X and what was their average spent?” If we had the tools, we could even run some regressions to see the correlation of certain demographics with purchase behavior.

What if we could get closer to actually understanding who our customers were, as people and not as statistics, and start to discover their underlying needs? What if we could go beyond functional needs and benefits?

This would require a different approach. We may have to take a more human, empathetic approach to understanding our customers. We may start to engage in a very different way, such as go to the streets to observe people, have coffee chats to listen to them, and we may find that what they say and how they behave are very different. We may start to understand their unstated, underlying needs and motivations. We may be able to start developing customer personas.


Personas help us ‘humanize’ our customers by putting a ‘face’ to them with actual needs. Once we look at personas, we would find that there are actually not millions of underlying needs and motivations, but usually, they can be synthesized into 4-6 different underlying needs.

Personas help us create specific strategies on the types of products and services to offer, how to engage, or how to best communicate with them. It helps us go beyond mass messaging that is often too general. With personas, we would be able to answer questions such as…

Who are our customers, really? What do they really care about? What’s important to them? How do they want to engage with us? How can we ‘WOW’ them?

‘Humanizing’ our customers and treating them uniquely based on their needs and their motivations can be the “X factor” that starts to differentiate you from your competitors.

Who are the various personas you work with? What do they care about? How can you ‘WOW’ them?