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How To Think Like A Thief


The thief easily let himself into the house as if it was his own. He knew exactly where the key was, he knew what time the house would be empty, and he knew exactly where to find the piece of art he had his sights on. He knew where the security cameras were so he made sure that his cap covered his face well. Carefully, he lifted the artwork from its place, wrapped it in paper, placed it in a bag, and left. It was the most seamless, and easy theft there was. But how?


What the thief did was to study his target well. He kept track of the owner’s schedule; when he left and when he got back, and all the other aspects of his daily life. He knew how the owner lived and he knew how the owner thought. He was inside the owner’s head. This made it extremely easy for him to slip him and take what he wanted. The interesting thing is that the same can work in reverse as well.


Suppose you wanted to show up at someone’s house and surprise them with a gift. You would need to know exactly what time they would be home and what they would like to receive as a gift. The lesson for brands here is that this same tactic can be used online to market your products and services to your clients. In effect, what you should do is think like a thief, only in reverse, and don’t steal anything. Your role is to add value to your customers’ lives by providing a certain product or service; hence, you need to know exactly what they need.


Here’s how you can do that:


Conduct surveys: What better way to know what the customer wants, than to ask them? This is where surveys come in useful. Surveys need to be short and easy to answer, but they need to ask a few key questions. For example, a shampoo company could ask what their customers, what they find missing in their shampoos, with the intention of solving that problem for them. Women all over social media keep protesting the lack of functional pockets in their clothing. Maybe if jeans brands asked what the customer wants, they would be able to design a more practical pair of women’s jeans.


Create personas: Now it’s time to get into thief mode. Brands need to create buyer personas based on their target customer. To be able to reach your customer, you need to know where they go on the internet, what their interests are, their age, their spending capacity, and so on. The more detailed the buyer persona, the more accurate the results. Collecting and analysing data is one of the best ways to create a buyer persona. Creating a buyer persona will not only give you insights into when and where to target your marketing but what other products you can club together for more attractive deals.


These tips could prove useful in creating an effective buyer persona:

  • Research your customer until you know all their likes and dislikes. Someone who buys running shoes is most likely into running, but maybe they also like trekking and adventure sports. Understand their preferred social media platforms, the times of day they are online, and what are their usual spending patterns.

  • Take all this information and make it a character. Give him or her a name, age, occupation, hobbies, and even a pet. Be as detailed and as close to a real person as possible. If you’re a food or cosmetic brand you might want to add a few allergies to your persona.

  • If your brand targets a wider audience then make more that one persona. Have a persona to represent each of the demographics you are marketing to.

  • Now look at the persona and ask yourself, how can my product, service, or marketing best serve this person?

Once you’ve taken these steps, you would have understood your audience so much better.


Ask the tough questions: You are always going to have customers that browse the site and leave without buying or those that don’t return after one purchase. Just like the thief needs to know where the homeowner goes and for how long, brands too need to know the where and why of their customers leaving. Asking a customer ‘why’ can give insights into everything from and bad website layout, and lack of choice to a less-than-desirable returns policy. These answers can help you up your game considerably.


Be your own customer: If your former customers are not up for answering questions, you can do a little digging yourself. Visit your own website/e-commerce site from the customer’s end. Navigate the site, browse the products, and even buy something. Would you give the site a 5-star rating? Be as unbiased as possible and if you find your site falling short, make the necessary improvements.


Show them you care: Some thieves gain inside access to a home by befriending the owner. The con artist charms his/her way into the owner’s friend-circle by being witty, funny, and even kind and caring. And while no brand should resort to ticking their customers, it helps to endear yourself to them by having excellent customer care. Listen to their problems and do what needs to be done to solve them. What they don’t need is an automatically generated replay with no action taken.


The most successful thieves are the ones who understand their target to the T. For a brand to create an effective marketing strategy, they too need to understand their target to a point where they can anticipate their next move.

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