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Knowing Your Consumers

It makes sense that most of us probably have a good idea as to who our targets are when it comes to marketing. Toys ‘R’ Us is smart enough to know they should run commercials during kids shows so they can get excited and go tell mommy or daddy how much they want that incredibly amazing new thing they saw on TV. Beer and snack commercials seem to do much better during sporting events because they know men tend to be watching during that time.

But sometimes, the target of a business or organization doesn’t quite match up as well as one might think. I say this, having gone through a unique situation with a local gym that caught me slightly off-guard. And it told me not everyone understands how marketing and expectations work and how it causes people to perceive their organization.

The gym I typically go to ran into some sort of problem – either electrical or water or something that required maintenance – that forced the gym to shut down for about a week. Fortunately, for those of us who need our daily workout fix, they had multiple locations that were up to the task of taking on the additional bodies who wanted to go for a swim or lift weights or shoot baskets or take a walk on the treadmill. For me personally, my goal for one particular day was to get in some practice on the basketball court and, as luck would have it, I found myself getting the entire court area to myself.

On the downside, the large basket of basketballs I found was missing something very important – regulation-sized basketballs. Oh sure, there were at least a dozen or more kid-sized basketballs in the basket. But this gym is not a kid’s only gym and this court was not reserved only for kids. I went to the front desk and the lady behind the counter could only offer a seemingly unsympathetic “That’s all we have” reply to my request for just one adult-sized basketball. I spent my normal amount of time dribbling and shooting baskets but with a much smaller basketball, and even palmed a ball just for a positive memory.

The lesson here, however, is that this particular consumer is one who will always remember this as a negative experience. It may one day be a part of the reason I leave this gym and start going to another. I believe it is tremendously important to have a dozen kid-sized basketballs. Kids love this place and they should have lots of opportunities to enjoy life as they grow up. I went to this gym as a kid and my own son is a member here. But there are just as many adults who go to the gym and they represent 100 percent of the paying consumers. And many of them, like me, have kids who also benefit. What was lost by this gym, however, is that there was no reason not to find a balance and aim to please all of the facility users.

Now, this particular time may have merely been a customer service issue and that all of the adult-sized basketballs were hidden away in a secret closet somewhere. It was, however, a lost opportunity to show they were prepared to provide services they are so happy to boast about in their marketing materials.

For now, I am still a member and at least intend to continue being a member for the foreseeable future. However, I now have my eyes open for a better deal and that would not have happened had they just done a better job of identifying what they needed to provide to their consumers they targeted in their marketing. Hopefully, for their sake, my regular location won’t experience any more unexpected closures.

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