This article is part one of a four-part series. Here we’ll illustrate how Subaru, a reputable automobile maker, tackles the Find portion of the buying cycle. To learn more about the four stages of the customer acquisition journey, review our overview first.
Finding the Right Life Moment
Life is brimming with memorable experiences—little snapshots of both the seemingly mundane and the completely life-altering. Most folks have mental albums that follow the progression of their lives, capturing moments like the birth of a child, holidays with loved ones, passing their license test, moving to a new city, or a graduation. And with the onset of a major change, people are often faced with the need for a new service or product.
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Think of it this way: In 2017, 6.3 million cars were sold in the United States. That means there were also 6.3 million different major life events that pushed people to purchase a car. That’s a lot of cars—and potential brand loyalty too. Understanding and anticipating your customers’ life stages is the best way to help them find you when they need you.
So how does a brand identify the “right” life moment?
These moments where a product or service is identified and requires consumers to make a purchase are called “indicators.” Indicators offer major opportunities for brands to cultivate new customer relationships or nurture existing ones. The birth of a child or a cross-country move into a new home are two great examples of indicators—both of which can be further optimized if a brand has an existing relationship.
Understanding and anticipating your customers’ life stages is the best way to help them find you when they need you.
Unfortunately, information about these indicators is often siloed with ineffective marketing strategies. This oversight can restrict service overlap, isolate customers, and reduce a brand’s ability to anticipate a customer’s needs. In other words, friction is created for the customer, data is rendered obsolete, and opportunities for conversion are missed. Siloed marketing does not create brand loyalty, nor does it allow customers to find brands—and brands won’t be able to find customers, either.
Providing connected customer experiences combats such division. One touchpoint informs the other. Finding and connecting customers’ life stages feels more innate and less forced, creating a more effective marketing strategy.
For example, sales agents often uncover opportunities for optimizing indicators. If a home security sales agent discovers that a customer has experienced a break-in, the brand is presented with an opportunity for support to reach out to the customer to evaluate the effectiveness of their security system. This information can then be relayed to marketing for testimonials and optimization, allowing strategists to convey an honest experience.
Indicators are a valuable source of information because one indicator often leads to another: an ‘If This Then That’ scenario—except in real life. Start by looking at the common indicators of both potential and existing customers. To uncover potential indicators, ask this question: what are the customers’ universal desires?
- To feel an emotional affinity with the product or service
- To feel empowered by being in the driver’s seat
- To trust the information they’re provided with
- To have multiple channels to choose from
- To know that their purchase is built for the long-term
- To know that in the face of change, their brand of choice can help
These types of wants and needs demonstrate where the customer is in the buying process, and understanding them allows a brand to step in accordingly.
Finding customers who are experiencing or are going to experience change starts with data aggregation and machine learning. The two components go hand in hand: data aggregation provides insight from multiple sources, while the machine learning offers a deeper understanding of trends, habits, and behaviors.
Successful companies must understand their customers, proactively anticipate life stages, and demonstrate that the brand is there to support them.
Other effective marketing strategies reference myriad sources, ranging from in-store sales and online trends to store forecasts. This enables brands to gain a deeper, more empathetic understanding of their customers and encourage customers to build a community surrounding the brand. And as far as customers are concerned, a little goes a long way. Small details enhance trust and provide an “I get it” vibe with individuals and groups that brands are looking to access.
It goes without saying that successful companies must understand their customers, proactively anticipate life stages, and demonstrate that the brand is there to support them—both during the time of need and long after the product or service has been purchased. Companies that approach potential and existing customers with “I Get It” message show customers that their needs have been identified, anticipated, and addressed with a friction-free experience.
Subaru: A Company That “Gets It”
Subaru knows its customers. And Subaru knows that buying a car is stressful. Subaru also knows that a happy customer is a customer for life—while 82% of customers say that one crummy experience reduces the likelihood that they would recommend the brand to others. For Subaru, customer experience, churn, and life stages are all interconnected.
Consequently, the company relies on data aggregation, data-driven marketing, strategic brand messaging, and the creation of dependable technology. Bundled together, these components ensure the company understands three fundamentals about its customers:
- The customer base
- The customer life stages
- The future life stages or needs of the customer
Through many failed marketing attempts, research showed that Subaru had a wide and extremely varied clientele, ranging from families to outdoor enthusiasts, dog owners, and race car fans. Despite being such a diverse group of customers, Subaru owners and potential customers have one major common desire: they want a vehicle that can last a lifetime of life stages—regardless of what those life stages are.
The common indicator lay within an overt need for reliability. And to own a Subaru is to own a slice of dependability. Rather than letting the competition sneak in when no one is looking, Subaru knows what life changes its customers will experience, understands how to anticipate them, and addresses them before the competition can. All thanks to data, research, and understanding its customers.
Subaru messaging leans heavily on emotional connectivity, allowing the brand to preserve an empathetic connection throughout the various life stages of its customers and sell cars as a service, not just a product.
Take a look at Subaru’s ad for its 2018 Forester. The clip is entitled “A Life Story on the Line.” Over the course of 30 seconds, the narrator experiences five major life stages: school, friendship, marriage, children, and a car accident. Each stage showcased how Subaru was there for the narrator no matter what life dished out.
Subaru doesn’t stop at marketing campaigns, either. In an effort to reduce friction for customers, Subaru connected its online-to-offline experiences, dramatically decreased wait time for consumers to receive a car, and enhanced service-to-shop capabilities. It also doesn’t hurt that Subaru makes dependable cars—owners have reported their cars lasting up to 300,000 miles with the original motor.
To further support its efforts, Subaru has four notable ways of optimizing indicators to appeal to customer life stages.
Subaru’s ads are either tearjerkers or bellyache-inducing laughter fits. However, the ads all circle back on one theme: dependability. No matter what life stage the customer is experiencing, Subaru wants the viewer to know that they can depend on the car to keep them safe, propel their adventures, and last them a lifetime.
Subaru Love Promise
Subaru practices what it preaches. The brand has five give-back programs and a bevy of customer care content categories that represent the myriad life changes that customers often experience, which further solidifies its dependable reputation. The company was also one of the first auto plants to qualify as a zero-landfill production facility. That’s pretty nifty if customers are worried about the environmental impact of car production.
What better way to understand what’s important to customer and the life events that matter to them than to hear it from them personally? Subaru has a whole section of the website dedicated to showcasing owner stories. The company even has a video series devoted to highlighting real-life Subaru owners. Plus, encouraging customers to tell their story is a surefire way to achieve accurate messaging, field feedback, and make people feel important.
To maintain connection long after a car or service has been purchased, Subaru service centers send out personalized check-ins to Subaru owners. This correspondence occurs sometimes out-of-the-blue—a “Hey, we haven’t seen you in a while, how are you?”—or systemically after you’ve had your car serviced. One of Subaru’s mottos is to “Far Exceed Expectations,” so technicians want to keep customers happy for the long-term.
Ultimately one does not just buy a Subaru: one buys a long-lasting vehicle, community, and a way of life. Subaru messaging leans heavily on this emotional connectivity, to both the outstanding longevity and sense of belonging. This approach allows the brand to preserve an empathetic connection throughout the various life stages of its customers. Doing so allows Subaru to sell the cars as a service, not just a product.
At Long Last
In the Subaru ad entitled “Welcome to the Pack,” there’s a quote that best summarizes Subaru and its approach to marketing: “You can find only so many faithful companions.” It’s true—not just for Subaru, but for all companies. Companies want faithful customers, and customers want to find a faithful companion to do business with.
To achieve this goal, brands must know their customers, create a strong foundation built on trust, and identify major life changes before they have even occurred. The key to finding that information is through data, research, and the application of data to see where competitors have missed out.