Successful business relations

Customers – what we can learn from Hollywood

You have to know your customers in order to build successful relationships. This applies to all sectors and business models. Circular business models offer the greatest potential for this. But what are the right customers, how can they be developed and what do we do with all the customer information? With a few side glances at the film industry, we look at theory and practice.

Jul 13 2021

Behind the Scenes  

One thing first. The aim of this article is not to paint a complete picture of the customer. That would go beyond the scope of this article and many marketing experts can do this better.  

Rather, the aim is to clarify important prerequisites for successful customer work and to demonstrate the advantages of circular business models, also for the furniture industry, for diverse and consistent customer journeys. 

Off to Hollywood

"You have to know your customers." Admittedly, the phrase has buzzword character and is certainly in the repertoire of every good marketing agency. And rightly so. The American marketing platform Hubspot has compiled an overview of the ten films and series marketers should have seen on the subject of customers. 

Among them - "Thank You for Smoking". Satirically exaggerated, the film is full of valuable statements on dealing with customers. The above-mentioned sentence is also in the film. I find two statements in the film remarkable in the context of today's topic. "Be part of your customers. Make up your own mind." The main character's (Aaron Eckhart) customers fly economy class. So does he. 

"Convince the right target group." This sentence contains two important prerequisites for a successful customer relationship – resilient argumentation and detailed target customer analyses. That's where we take a closer look now.

Emperor Augustus, Pascal Kidder Whelpton & Google Analytics 

What plays a big role in all of them? Cohorts. The military origin of the term "cohors" is associated with the reign of the first Roman Emperor Augustus (30 BC to 14 AD).

The term entered science and became internationally known as cohort analysis in 1949 by the American demographer Pascal Kidder Whelpton.  

The aim of his research at the time was to analyse the increase in the birth rate in the USA after the Second World War. Today, the method is increasingly used for studies in medicine, politics and the market economy. 

Today, Google Analytics uses it to analyse the behaviour and performance of groups of users with common attributes, for example. In the report, it is defined by an Analytics dimension. Which brings us to our topic - the importance of cohorts in relation to target customers. 

Knowing the characteristics, thinking and behaviour of customers is essential. This makes it all the more important to review when changes occur in the development of a circular business model. For example, the customer requirements are definitely not the same in a hybrid business model based on sales and rental.  

The analysis of the existing clientele, the fixation of the new target customers is imperative basic work with fundamental effects on customer relations and thus on business success. Those who have sold their products so far know their top sellers and customer groups. This can be different when it comes to renting. Those who never had customers in the B2B sector before may now find in them the decisive clientele. 

Millennials, GenZ, baby boomers, silver societies - already customers or not? This results in possible approaches for cohort formation with respective differentiation according to age structure (demography), customer structure (B2B/B2C) and products. 

  • "Today's customer": Those who currently buy know and appreciate the products. There is customer trust. But these actual customers are also changing, getting older, new generations are following. This means that attitudes and requirements are also changing. Who says they won't rent? 
  • "Used to be customer": These customers at least know the company and the products. The reasons for the current status are of course complex. The more you know, the more interesting they can be - a second chance. Who says they might not rent? 
  • "Never customer": That is certainly a more difficult exploration of the reasons. But you at least know the other two buying groups and can thus narrow down or rule out. This provides the first important insights into possible customer structures. On this basis, we have to define why we don't have these customers. Perhaps they are interested in innovative concepts? A new opportunity. Who says they wouldn't prefer to rent? 

How can the right target groups be fixed on this basis?

James Cameron knows. Avatar

Getting to know customer characters as a part of them. Giving them a face. A lesson from Hollywood - "Avatar". This film masterfully shows how meticulous and detailed the preparation for the "meeting" has to be. 

A brief example from the furniture industry. As a manufacturer of children's furniture, sales were based on sales oriented towards the target customers in the B2C sector. Defined target group - young families. 

In order to keep the products in a rental distribution channel in the loop, we have to think ahead. Target customers and target group remain, but the offer must be more targeted. Avatars make the customers transparent, alive and also sharpen the target group. 

Customer avatar: 

Max (32) and Marie (29) - they are expecting their first child. Max is in the last semester of his Master's degree in Artificial Intelligence. Marie studied business psychology and has been in a permanent position for a year. They have a small flat in Potsdam. Both are open and spontaneous personalities. Currently no mobility planning in terms of place of residence and duration.  

On the basis of this (rough) avatar, various characteristics could be defined for target group orientation in product rental and building long-term customer loyalty: 

  • Students/career starters - Couples 
  • Large cities/urban areas 
  • Mobility requirement given (3 to 4 years at home/work) 
  • Interest in new usage models 

The development of customer avatars is necessary, especially in the start-up scenario, in order to build functioning customer journeys and to establish subscription models that are geared to customer expectations. But how do you get the necessary data and what do you do with all the information? 

Information is the new gold 

It would be so nice if the possibilities of Mel Gibson from "What Women Want" were available to us. But unfortunately that is not the case. There is hard, continuous work behind it and it is impossible without digitalisation. However, in the age of Data Science, appropriate systems and tools are available.  

Amazon impressively demonstrates how this can succeed for rental/sharing business models. Certainly not without controversy, the utilisation and orientation of the acquired data for customer loyalty is exemplary. And even such a company has recognised that the future can only lie in circular, sustainable business models. 

In this context, a small but very interesting note once again on "Thank You For Smoking" - one of the executive producers of the film is Elon Musk...

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Portrait of Andre Hempel
Andre Hempel Senior Management
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