Who buys 10 staplers in 2016?
I can’t remember the last time I bought a stapler. Sure, I own one. But I have to search for the friggin’ thing whenever I need it. It surprised me to learn that around 20 million are still sold every year.
Who in the world is buying them? New college grads? Businesses in emerging markets? Well, if you believe the research of Yoon, Carlotti, and Moore the answer is simple: a handful of people who love staplers.
“But in our work with an office supply company, we identified stapler superconsumers, who own eight staplers each, on average. These consumers don’t do more stapling than other people. Their stapler buying is related to a need to be highly organized: They believe that the presentation of the papers they staple together matters as much as what is on the papers. So they want just the right stapler for each stapling occasion. They keep different sizes and shapes in various places—their offices, their kitchens, their purses, their cars.”
Make Your Best Customers Even Better, HBR March 2014
Superconsumers are your best customers
Your “Superconsumers” are the top 10% of buyers who account for 30% of revenue and 50% of profits. They’re the most passionate advocates who can’t stop talking about you on social media.
These are not simply “heavy-users” – those who buy the most. Often your biggest volume buyers are the most price sensitive and least creative. What separates Superconsumers is volume, engagement, passion, and creativity.
They find new uses for your products and buy those with highest margins. Best of all they are a source of innovation since they can expose novel product uses.
Superconsumers lower your innovation risk
“We’ve got plenty of time for innovation. Our leadership doesn’t care about quick wins”
–Said by no corporate innovation team … ever
Every innovation team is under the same (sometimes impossible) pressure – to show results quickly. Unfortunately this is extremely hard. Innovation is messy and breakthroughs happen after repeated failure.
Leaders are risk-averse and wary of pursuing opportunities outside of their core competency. Quite often their concerns are well-founded since pursuing solutions to unfamiliar problems usually fails.
Your innovation risk lowers when you generate new ideas from existing customers. You’ll mitigate market risk and have a built-in competitive advantage. Leadership is more likely to take a chance on these projects.
How to engage with Superconsumers to innovate
Go talk to them
Superconsumers are usually easy to reach. Just start with the most profitable customers and look for engagement signals – social media activity, frequent sales meetings, and purchases of high-margin products. Most will be excited to spend more time with you.
The first step is simply talking to them.
Ask about creative uses
Ask them anything and everything about how they use your products. Ask where, how, and why. Dig deeper until you know enough to build customer personas. Ask crazy fun questions like:
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done with our product?
Have you ever done something with our product you wouldn’t admit to your mother?
Do you friends ever laugh at how you use our product?
Yoon et al mention an example of mixing Greek yogurt and sour cream to make a tasty, healthier vegetable dip.
Look for information products to drive sales
Sometimes the interviews alone can generate quick wins.
Superconsumer interviews make for great content marketing pieces. Just get permission, take notes, and you’ve got next week’s blog post.
Other Superconsumers create HOW-TO guides, recipes or hacks. Get your design team to package them professionally, and you have information products to drive sales. Information products won’t get you on the cover of Fortune magazine but they are an inexpensive, quick win.
Use them as beta testers and early promoters
Superconsumers are like “earlyvangelists” – they’ll put up with buggy, incomplete products because they buy into your vision. These customers will give you invaluable, real-world feedback you can’t get in the lab.
They’ll also be willing to tell everyone about you and help with early social media promotion. Use Superconsumer behaviors and characteristics to test demand through digital marketing campaigns.
Connect your Superconsumers with startups
For more successful corporate innovation in partnership with startups, introducing startups to your Superconsumers is a great way to generate a win-win for everyone. Your average customers will have no interest in talking to startups (or you).
Superconsumers? They’ll be thrilled with the attention and opportunity to make their best products even better.
We’re here to help
Need help finding your Superconsumers? Wondering what to ask them? Have a great story about a friend who owns 20 staplers? Just contact us, we’d love to hear from you.
Photo credit: Brent Schneeman
Also published on Medium.