Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.

Julia: Everybody, I am here today with my friend, Amber. She’s gonna talk to us about some customer identification, which I’m excited to get into. But Amber, before we get into that, tell us a little bit about yourself; name, where you are, your business, et cetera. 

Amber: Hey, Julia, I am so happy to be here today. I absolutely am a raving fan of Stratos and your team. You guys are just amazing, so it’s been a joy to be working with you. I have the privilege of being the vice president of marketing and technology for Wausau Holmes. Wausau is based out of Rothchild, Wisconsin. But I know what you’re thinking, you don’t sound like someone from Wisconsin. No, I don’t. I’m a Dallas girl, sixth generation Texan, and I have the privilege of working from home. So that’s a little about me. 

Julia: That’s awesome. I feel like only Texans would know how many generations of Texans there were in their family. 

Amber: That is so true. Absolutely true. Yeah. Absolutely true.

Julia: That’s awesome. Amber, tell me how you got into marketing. 

Amber: Oh, my goodness. How much time do you have, Julia? The short version is I literally grew up in an entrepreneurial setting. My parents own several home service companies, and my father is a plumber, and we homeschooled growing up. So I was one of those really cool, chickly dressed individuals in the 80s that wore a denim jumper and the white head shoes. No offense to my brothers and sisters in the homeschooling world, but what were our parents thinking? So that was me, and part of my education was working alongside my mother and learning the trial and errors of how to make our phones ring. It’s a very different world when your entire livelihood is dependent upon your success.

I would do school in the morning, and I would sit at my parents’ desk in the afternoon. And we would learn, we would work, I would file and answer the phones. I think I was nine years old answering the phone to my dad’s calling company. And then as I got older, obviously responsibilities and things shifted and I went off to college, and I had to get the first job out of college, and was actually fired from my first marketing job, because the boss called me and said, “I don’t like you.” And I was like, “Oh, okay. This is hard for me.” So I called my mom in tears and I said, “I just got fired.” And she said, “Great, move back home. I’m gonna give you the worst job in the entire company.” Mom, appreciate that.

But that worst job ended up being the best opportunity because I was able to take on our call center, the businesses had scaled by that point. This was back in 2007, and I was responsible for making the phones ring and for customer service of a 24-hour call center in Dallas. 

Julia: Wow!

Amber: I’ve always joked that if I was gonna start my own brand, it would be scrappy girl marketing. You do things cheap, you do things fast and you have to make it work. So trial and error, I learned how to manage a marketing budget, I learned how to have agency relationships, I learned how to place media buys, I learned about outdoor. And eventually, I started my own company, which is Saber Marketing Group. That company, I was very blessed, and it scaled in five years, and I sold it to private equity, and that was a direct mail guidebook, and we generated leads for home service companies. 

Julia: Wow! 

Amber: So every experience that you have sets you up for where God’s taking you next. And so that’s a little bit about my background, is I learned the hard way, school of hard knocks, what not to do, what to do, and that really, when you’re marketing a business, whether it’s your business or someone else’s, every dollar. 

Julia: Totally. Yeah, for sure. I wish people realized that a little bit more sometimes because the amount of things that people pay – Like when we do consulting, sometimes I’m like, “Why is this budget line a budget line?” And it’s not a bad thing, you don’t know what you don’t know. But I do think it’s important to find marketing companies that you can trust so that they’re not wasting your money. 

Amber: Sure. And I think it’s also really important to identify what those goals are early on in a relationship. I do a lot of consulting too. And when clients come to me and they say, “Oh, I don’t really know what I want to achieve.” That’s a red flag. I’m like, “Okay, let’s just stop right there.” Because you would be better off taking that money and flushing it down the toilet because you don’t know what your desired outcome is if you don’t start with the end in mind. Military drill, start with the end in mind. 

Julia: There you go. So we’re actually gonna talk about customer identification. When we were talking about doing this podcast, you had said there was a few things that you talk a lot about, and this was one of them. Why is it something that you talk a lot about?

Amber: Oh, my goodness! Probably because it’s my soapbox, Julia. I think that customer identification is one of the most overlooked elements in marketing. So often, companies focus on brand building without considering who the target market is. It’s crazy to me that we have this notion, if I just put my brand out there, the people will come. It’s like, I know that they will come. Well, no, based on what? That isn’t an empty stadium, no one’s gonna come. So customer identification is all about beginning with the end in mind. Who is it that’s paying you money right now, and why are they using your services, and how can you model your marketing to get more of those people?

Julia: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. So practically, how do you go about even starting this process? 

Amber: It’s a great question. So what I like to do in any situation is ask the company to open up their books. I’m not looking for their finances, I don’t wanna know what they’re spending their money on, but I do want to see a financial report of their customers. Everyone has a database. It could be an Excel, it’s still your database, right? Whatever it is, but you have the database. Get a list of those customers, and get a list of the corresponding transactions for those customers and rank them. I like to see at least a one year. The most recent reverse database append that I did was for 60 years. 

Julia: Holy cow! 

Amber: You cannot imagine. I’m sure you can. That data pool was painful. Oh, my goodness. It was so challenging. But you basically do your database reverse append, and you look at who’s spending money, you look at who those people are, and then you put them in buckets. You put them in buckets by location. And you say, Okay, 5% of my total database is in this zip code or this state, or this part of the country. And then you get really granular and you say, okay, they’re this age, they’re this gender, they drive this kind of car, they’re interested in these products. And this is one of the reasons why I really recommend that business owners partner with a data agency or a company like mine, because this can get really messy if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

But the key is to land on two to four target buckets of customers that you can say with clarity, this is who they are, this is what they buy, and this is where they’re located. And with those three bits of information, this is who they are, this is what they buy, this is where they’re located, now, you can get scrappy and you can really hone in on corresponding offers to what they’re interested in, targeting your marketing and geographic areas so that you’re gonna be able to sustain the work, and a myriad of other approaches. But just knowing who your audience is.

Julia: Yeah. I know even messaging, you can gravitate your messaging to that customer rather than using blanket messaging too. I know that’s something that we’ve done together. So when you say you order them or you put them in an order, are you looking for the people who are spending the most money? Because there’s gotta be some anomalies sometimes.

Amber: Oh, there’s totally anomalies. And honestly, Julia, most of the time, the companies that get this data are shocked because who they think is spending money with is rarely the same as who is actually spending money with them. And that’s some part, is really digging in and saying, well, 40% of your revenue is tied to this service that you offer. But look, the close second is this service or this product that you offer. And so, yes, what you’re looking for is that diagram of top revenue generating, mid revenue generating, and then anything else in between. But those buckets are what’s going to determine where you go with your marketing. 

And really, the company has to decide on their approach. Are they wanting to leverage a new product? If so, then understanding that these people are gonna be the most likely to buy this new product, or if the company is in a situation where we’re in a recession, or we think we’re going into a recession, things are scary, so how are we going to make money in a recession? Well, in that case, we need to look and see what you’ve been making money on and get really smart about the return on investment and target the marketing for what’s working now and not invest in things that could be more risky. 

The company sets the direction of the approach. It can either be in line with what’s working now, or it can be with a clear vision of what they want to expand into. And the database and the customer analysis is what paves the way and gives you the insights necessary to do that.

Julia: Okay. I wanna go back to the fact that you said people often think their customer is different than who they actually is. Why do you think that is the case? 

Amber: Well, because as business owners and operators, we are so focused on our impression of our business, and who we want to go after, and what we do really, really well. And oftentimes, we’re so busy working in our businesses that we don’t get to work on our businesses. And so we have this idea that, oh, I’m putting all this information out there and these are the kind of people that are responding because this is who we think is responding. But until you actually look at numbers, and numbers don’t lie, it’s just eye opening for them to see, oh my goodness, I’m attracting a totally different kind of consumers, or business owners, of course, for B2B and B2C. 

Julia: My other question for you is taking this one step further, we’ve talked about this a little bit. You talked about once you know your audiences, then you can do location targeting, things like that. What are some other ways that customer identification could influence the marketing? 

Amber: Your messaging is huge. If you think that your customer is a 20-something year-old female, and actually turns out that it’s a 35-year-old female, I mean, hey, I’m not pointing any figures [inaudible 00:12:35] from yesterday, I know that bracket has changed, that thing has happened. So the interest groups are completely different, the buzzwords are different, so your marketing changes. Your platform changes. Did you know that only 25% of users on TikTok are 21 years old and below? 

Julia: Yeah. It’s crazy. 

Amber: I mean, social media is your world, right? So of course, you know that. 

Julia: Well, but people are under the impression that it’s a lot younger, but it really isn’t. 

Amber: Yeah. And so I think understanding the users of given platforms, and then how that intersects with who’s buying from you, that helps you determine where you need to be. 

Julia: One of the other things that I find interesting is a lot of people think millennials are younger than they are. As a millennial, people have forgotten that we’ve gotten older and that now we are the people who are buying houses, having kids. We are not the college students any longer. [inaudible 00:13:40] And so, it is interesting, because you definitely have to know who you’re talking to. 

Sweet. Any other things that you can think of that might be affected by knowing who your customer is? 

Amber: No, I think that you really hit on something important, Julia, which is when we understand who our customers are, we understand how to serve them better. And a story brand guide, specifically for you and I, we understand the importance of not being the hero. Our businesses are here to meet the needs of our customers. And so the only thing I would add to this conversation is that when we understand who our customers are, we can then pinpoint what their needs are, and then we really sharpen the blade in terms of [inaudible 00:14:29] to make sure that we do stand apart from our competition, and we are creating a loyal rating fan base.

Julia: Yeah. Going back to something you said earlier about people emphasizing branding rather than customer identification, I think that even those two things could be tied together because if you know who your customers are, you’ll know what branding – like your colors, even all of those things, can be influenced by your customers too. 

Amber: Yes, absolutely true. And whenever I’m consulting, I take my clients through something that’s called the Four Pillars of Marketing, and it starts at copy, then it goes to branding. And [inaudible 00:15:14] a copy has to be in sync. You’re so right. Because you know the good brands, you know what they are in under three seconds of looking at them. We know it. We know who that is. We know the doc, we know him. 

Julia: Yeah. Totally. 

Amber: But the brands that are fighting internally with what they’re saying versus what they’re portraying, it just creates confusion in the mind of the consumer. You’re so right. 

Julia: So as we come to close this out, I would love to hear a few couple quick practical tips that people could use if they’re starting to look at their customers. I know you said, work with a data company, somebody who can really distill all of your information. But if I am a scrappy business, I cannot afford a data company, where would you tell me to start? 

Amber: Pull your database. Number one, pull your database, and start looking at easy ways that you can bucket the information. Even if it’s just by address, now you know where your database is. Then number two, rank your products. Now you know where your customers are, next, determine what those top revenue generating items are. Even if you can stop there, you’ve gone 60% of the way, if not 70, depending on the size of your business. And then the next thing is start applying that as a lens to where you’re spending money on your marketing.

Julia: Yeah. That’s so important. I could see how that could really affect people, like you said, choosing which products to promote when, making decisions, and when recessions happen, even to be able to know – I know sometimes, even in my own business, we consider, okay, is this a worthwhile service to offer? Because it’s not generating the revenue that we thought it would, so maybe it’s time to put that experiment away. And it helps you make more tangible decisions. 

Amber: Absolutely. So at the end of the day, we are the stewards of our own businesses, of our finances, of our destinies, if you will, and that requires good objective information. In my opinion, we are living in the information age. Gone are the days when we could just throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. If we’re doing that, then we’re really not being good stewards for the resources that we have. 

Julia: For sure. So before I have you tell people where they can connect with you, sometimes we do what’s called a hot take, and I have  two for you. Amber got all of the questions except for these. Amber, if somebody says, “But everyone is my customer”, what would you say? You laugh because you know you’ve heard it. 

Amber: I have. I’ve heard it many times. Everyone may be your customer, but you can’t afford to market to everyone right now.

Julia: Okay. Yeah. And I would even say everyone might not be your customer, actually. 

Amber: I’ve had a relationship with someone where I can be that blunt. Maybe. 

Julia: So one thing that I’ve seen out there is people will name their customers. Like Stacy is 48, has a cat named Fifi; how detailed do you go? Yay or nay? Do you name your customers? 

Amber: Well, it depends on the day, right? No, I’m just kidding. When I did the customer database append for Wausau Homes, we did come up with – The information group that we worked with is out of Plano, Texas, and we came up with buying groups called Avatars. What we found was that those buckets did have names. So we did Country Club Conservatives, that was a big group of individuals who were upper middle class, children were older, had a lot of recreational toys, and usually were members of some kind of country club. 

Then we had our adopters and consumers. Those adopters and consumers were people who were on the opposite end of the spectrum. For whatever reason, they wanted to adopt a new kind of home, and they weren’t looking to keep up with the Jones’s, so to speak. They had very specific wants when it came to building a custom home, and they tended to be a little bit older and maybe it was an Asian place. And one of the things they shied away from was the home you’re going to die in. So we saw that approach. 

But yes, I do think that for the sake of your company and your team members as well, knowing how you’re going to refer to these customers with respect is sometimes quite helpful. And depending on how in-depth you go with your database analysis, the information partner that you provide or that you work with may be able to even provide some corresponding images and some buying habits and brands that you might even look at co-marketing with.

Julia: I love that. Love it. Okay, sweet. Thank you. Amber, where can people connect with you if they wanna learn more about what you’re doing? 

Amber: Julia, I would love it if people reached out to me at ambergaige@wausauhomes.com. Our website is Wausau, W-A-U-S-A-U, wausau.com, https://www.wausauhomes.com/. So reach out if you need to buy a custom home. We’re your people. 

Julia: Perfect. Sweet. Awesome. Amber, thank you so much. We really appreciate this. 

Amber: Yeah, it was a pleasure to be here, Julia. I appreciate it. Have a great day.

Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have, if you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and want to give us a rating or a review, I promise we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.

Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week and I hope you will be too.