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How archetypes inspire customer-centric marketing

#AnimalHealth, #BuyerInsight, #CustomerExperience

Part 4 of 5 in our Animal Health Challenger series.

When you’re looking for a more customer-centric perspective for your marketing, archetypes are a great start.

As savvy animal-health marketers, we’re well aware of the need to shake off a product-centric perspective. But finding the right customer-centric approach can be hard. There’s a tendency to think of our customers as purely rational beings who make decisions based on facts and reason. But then we’re puzzled when they don’t behave rationally! And when we try to adopt a more empathetic view of our customers, we often fall into the trap of thinking our customers are just like us.

How archetypes work

This is where archetypes fit in. They give us a clear view of who our customers might be; something that’s external to ourselves yet very approachable. For marketing purposes, let’s consider archetypes as categories of people based on their behavior.

The notion of archetypes has been around since ancient Greek times, but their use in marketing really came to the fore when Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson published their book The Hero and the Outlaw. This SlideShare neatly summarizes their 12 archetypical customer types.

Archetypes in the real world

In my career, I think I’ve encountered all 12 types of Mark and Pearson’s archetypes in veterinary clinics, on farms and in homes, but four are more common than others. Using the authors’ original definitions —with tweaks and a summary by me— see if you can recognize these archetypes among your customers. (My guess is that we all assume that veterinarians are “caregivers” but, upon reflection, realize that the truth is richer and more complex than that.)

The Caregiver

Core desire: To protect from harm

Gift: Compassion

Strategy: Do things for others

Summary: The most obvious archetype of an animal-health professional, they want to provide consistent, high-quality service and care.

What we can do for them: Provide them with information and assurances, both from a clinical and emotional perspective that confirms they are providing the best care possible.

The Ruler

Core desire: Control

Gift: Responsibility and leadership

Strategy: Exert leadership

Summary: Above all else, they want an outlet to demonstrate their leadership to clients and staff.

What we can do for them: Even if they consult with their staff before making a decision, respect that they are controlling the decision-making process and are the final arbiters in any decision.

The Sage

Core desire: Discover of truth

Gift: Wisdom and intelligence

Strategy: Seek out information and knowledge

Summary: They crave information as a way to self-fulfillment.

What we can do for them: These individuals trust the objectivity of clinical data. But, they also seek a broader context for the implications of their new knowledge. Give them both data and context.

The Explorer

Core desire: Freedom to find a better experience, to define themselves

Gift: Autonomy and ambitions

Strategy: Experience new things and escape from entrapment

Summary: They seek new approaches and experiences, for themselves, their clients and their staff.

What we can do for them: They seek innovation. They are inspired by the newest information. Help them to understand how new research and new products can be implemented in their clinics.

Archetypes give us a shorthand way to understand complex humans, but they shouldn’t be mistaken for stereotypes. The difference between stereotypes and archetypes is the difference between predictable and predictive. Stereotypes are one dimensional and predictable. By providing insight into people’s motivations, archetypes give us a tool for predicting future behavior.

And that, to a large extent, is their true power in marketing: the ability to anticipate how customers might respond to our efforts in the future.

Beyond Archetypes

There’s an old saying that the devil is in the details. It’s the idea that the details make all the difference.

That can be the case with archetypes. The differences that make a difference™ can be missed when relying on archetypes. We may need to journey beyond archetypes and gather more insight to identify the nuanced or conflicting motivations of our customers or the distinctive situation or context in which our customers work.

Nonetheless, archetypes can still be the foundation of a solid customer-centric marketing strategy. Too often, customer-centric marketing efforts get bogged down because the team doesn’t have a shared understanding of “the customer.” By providing an externalized idea of who our customers are, archetypes help dissipate this ambiguity, giving us a clear understanding of what motivates our customers. And, perhaps just as importantly they help prevent us from backsliding in a product-centric direction.