Episode 196 Featuring Alex Bond

Customer Psychology and Consulting Strategy with Monica Sharma-Patnekar

Customer Psychology and Consulting Strategy with Monica Sharma-Patnekar

Monica Sharma-Patnekar is an eCommerce brand mentor and consultant with over 17 years of experience working with brands. We discuss her Desires Over Demographics Framework, which can be downloaded at businesswithmonica.com/debutify, how to turn a product into a lifestyle, getting to know your customer base, and much more.


Working as an eCommerce consultant

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: I'll try to be very concise, but I'm a brand growth strategic, so I really help people to define a really clear brand and brand strategy for their business, which really is about figuring out why you do what you do.

You know, you're a bigger purpose. Who is your customer? Why are they really buying? And that real customer that's actually buying from you and what you're there for, standard for as a brand. And then take that and look at your metrics and say, how can I adapt this to the right messaging along the customer journey to be able to guide my customers to be able to make that decision to buy. 

Alex Bond: So that kind of touches on my next question. What is your goal when you start working with the company? Is it to kind of figure out what their goals are? 

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: Yes. So I work with highly purpose driven, impact driven businesses.

There are conscious products, they're really trying to create an impact with their products that they sell as well. So, you know you're one, have a long-term sustainable business. You wanna have it profitable, but obviously not maximizing your profits at any cost. Ethics, sustainability, all of that play a big role.

And when these people come in, a lot of times I've seen the clients come into me at a point when they're doing all the right things. They've been doing, the traffic generation, putting out content, doing the advertising, doing the collaborations, the emailing, maybe even every day, if not at least few times a week.

They're doing all the right strategies and tactics at least, and taking right actions, but yet they're not able to break that ceiling of growth that they've reached. For some people, it's trying to reach that first six figures. For others, they're ready to multi six figures, but just feel stuck to get to the next level. And that's when I come in usually. 

And at that stage, it's really about defining where they wanna go to, what they really wanna achieve for their business, both and how they wanna work, how it impacts their life, right. And in terms of the actual tangible business goals, often it is really going back down to basic marketing and brand for the customers and business principles. 

And there's a missing piece tends to be that brand piece in really knowing your customer and knowing what you stand for as a brand so that you can then have the right messaging, which you then go back and to take all those right actions. And that's usually kind of the stage I get into. 

How Monica built her career

Alex Bond: So for you specifically, how did you build the credentials to become an eCommerce brand mentor and consultant? Because that's kind of not an easy gig to get into. I can imagine.

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: Well, I say I'm a brand builder and it's been like over 17 years career. You know, I did the masters in business, majored in marketing, went into the corporate world. Took on brand management roles, launching a new brand to the market work, managing heritage brands, the fold bandwidth operations included, moved into strategy consulting, then moved into global marketing.

And whereas really, you know, from strategy and positioning to action plans, but even ensuring right teams and structure for people to implement it and they have the right skills, I realized I was ready to leave the corporate world. I quit when I was pregnant with my second child and decided to go on my own, which was a long-term dream, and I started my own online store. Selling home accessories and design contemporary designers in India and bringing that to Europe. 

When I was doing that though, I realized that I was such a hurry to leave the corporate world, that I was chasing this old teenage dream of mine, of starting this online store or bringing in these products. Whereas my heart is really building brands, and that's what I did my entire career. I'm working with multiple businesses to be able to do that. And I was in the circles I was in at that time I was helping my fellow, you know, entrepreneurs with all the knowledge I had over all those years. 

And I started realizing that was the missing piece. None of them knew who their customers were and I'm like, wait one second. That's what I need to be focusing on. But what I chose to do, I stopped freelancing with the bigger businesses and really niche down to both scale up and startups also in the tech and sales space and small business entrepreneurs who e-commerce, product base retail, you know, really impact driven, purpose driven.

Alex Bond: No, that's great. And then you know, you even still at the same time get to build your own brand. You know, I visited your website businesswithmonica.com and you know, it is well organized and you still get to do all that for your consulting, you know, firm individually at the same time. So you got to kind of have your cake and eat it as well. 

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: Yeah. I'm still doing, I'm taking the same actions for my business. It's just a service-based business, but I'm doing the same things and I get to help multiple brands and the fun part is actually seeing the impact I have in people's lives when their business starts taking off the way they want it to.

How Monica determines her success rate as a consultant

Alex Bond: So do you have any pecific metrics in terms of your success rate as a consultant. Like, you know, what your track record looks like. 

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: So like I said, I've worked from Fortune 500 businesses to startups, scale-ups to small, you know, the solo entrepreneur across industries, sectors, even regions. And for some of the bus bigger businesses I've worked with in the SaaS and tech space, you know, once we've really helped them gain that focus and clarity of that big vision they have for their business. And really translate that to key action plans. Some of them have grown to 40 to 50% annually after implementing all that work.

I've worked with, you know, agencies that have then been identified as Google Premium Partners, which is only the top 3%. So your sales and revenue need to be there for my smaller entrepreneurs. I've worked with people you know, who are multi six figures and really struggling to get repeat purchases. 

And just within a few, 30 days of implementing some of the work we do, they start doubling their open rates because it, they start shifting from just pure selling to really helping their customers, clients who've barely made a few thousand a year to having some of the best months in the pandemic. But I wanna add is these results come over period of time after we do this. Really taking the time to implement this consistently across your business. This is not a 30 day to X ROI kind of thing.

This is really slowing down, getting to know your customer, your brand, and translating it consistently across your business. It takes three to five years to build a successful and profitable business minimum, you know, to really break even and go profitable. And I believe when you're doing something meaningful, it really does take time.

So it's really about also be having the trust and that's the biggest for me, although of course for a lot of business owners, it's the ROI. What I see change in my clients I work with is the trust they have in themselves once they know so clearly who their customers are, why are they doing what they're doing and what that means in terms of all the messaging and therefore the actions they need to take.

They start trusting their own decisions a lot more. They start taking control over their business versus blindly following other people's roadmaps. And that's when I start seeing the step change happen in people's businesses. 

Alex Bond: You're totally right. I think people have an idea in their head already of all these things that they're supposed to do or that they have to do because it's what everyone else is doing. I have to get on, you know, this social media platform and make sure that that's, if everyone's doing that, you're not really cutting through the noise at all. So I think that's an extremely acute observation. 

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: Yeah, and everybody knows, if 1% is the average conversion rate, we can all do the maths. How many people do you need to your website? They're doing all the traffic. But when it's still not giving you the results you want, it's about taking that step back and saying, okay, what's not working? And being able to trust yourself as well in that process to be able to make those decisions and if you have a team to be able to take them along as well.

Turning a brand or a product into a lifestyle

Alex Bond: We've kind of been talking about already is brands versus company. So how do you specifically as a consultant, you know, business with Monica, how do you turn a company into a brand or as you've more specifically alluded to in other interviews, a product into a lifestyle, because that's what it's about is getting returning customers. I need this lifestyle, not just this product. 

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: I think that's the biggest thing for people, for business owners to realize you're not just selling a product, you're selling a lifestyle. It's an experience that people buy into. It's a feeling. People buy your products because of how they feel, and sometimes you're even creating this whole movement.

And I think realizing that is really important and that the brand is the perception or the feeling that your customers have at every single touchpoint. So whether you're, they are interacting with you on your website, they're reading your emails on social media, they're receiving your packages at home, every single touchpoint, that feeling that they get when they interact with you, that's a brand.

So it's such a subconscious thing. It's so hard to define, right. So it really comes back down to the things I keep repeating is really understanding your customer and what they want in their lifestyle, their needs, wants, and desires. I also say, you know, you're not just solving a problem, you're fulfilling a desire.

A lot of the products we want, they don't necessarily solve a technical problem in our lives. It's something we just want. I didn't need that fourth pair of legging. I bought it anyway. I just really wanted it. So understanding those needs, wants and desires of your customers translating that into the core values, the benefits that you offer your customer.

Not just what your product does, but how does it make your customers feel, and how does it transform their life together with what really makes you unique and different? Why you and nobody else? So as you're answering the question for your customer, why should I buy from you?

Making sure that it's consistently then translated across the products that you're offering, the messaging, copy, content, add every single thing or even the design, and look and feel that you put out there. Consistency in that message and clarity in it is just super important. And over a period of time that. Make you into a brand versus just a product in your customer's mind. 

Alex Bond: So you have to be, if I'm hearing you correctly, you have to be asking the right questions?

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: That's where it starts. I think that's like where some people may get a little frustrated with me, but it all starts with knowing your customer. Because if you don't know who you're speaking to, how can you attract them and how we can attract more of them or get them to come back. It's as simple as that. 

Desires Over Demographics Framework

Alex Bond: No, absolutely. I think you're totally right and I think it's great for our listenership to know that you actually have an excellent resource. You know, called the four D's or the desires over demographics framework, which is actually free to the public on businesswithmonica.com/debutify.

So can you explain for us what this framework is used for specifically? 

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: So this is just this great starting point to start speaking to your customers. So the four Ds are the four types of questions you need to be asking your customer, the four categories of questions cause a lot of times you know, what do people do? They go ask the customers, how did you like my product? How did you find me?

So it's very standard things where you're not really getting to know your customer or I'm planning on creating this, would you buy it? And again, asking people to predict the future. Again, we can't do that as humans. I mean, we'll tell you, okay, maybe, yeah, it sounds great, but it doesn't actually mean they will buy it at the moment. So what you really need to do, your customers, and then you need to define how your product delivers on those needs that they have.

So by using these four Ds, it's a great starting point to go out and start interviewing and speaking to your customers one-on-one preferably. You can also do surveys, but there's nothing like speaking to them one-on-one where you can just dive deeper into the motivations that they have. 

Alex Bond: I think that one-on-one experience is extremely important. You know, you've asked a lot of good questions up to this point already, and I feel like as, as just a customer in the world, the only questions I usually get is, how did you hear about us and what do you think about us? You know, what brought you here? And what do you think now that you're here and it the buck kind of stops there as a customer with a lot of my experience.

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: Yeah. I mean, just think of l like as an example, the bigger brands, the Apples or the Starbucks of the world. What are they really delivering on? It's an experience. Starbucks is where the third place in people's life, and they do it through their, you know, their cafes and coffee chains, but also through the coffee that they do.

It's the product that is the proof point, but they're creating this third place in people's life. How did they come to that? They observed and they learned about their customers by seeing people went to work, people went home and there was no other kind of place in between for people to be and hang out. Same with Apple.

They really observed how people use their products and what it meant. It was a lot about connection and simplicity. That, and then they created the product that delivered on that. Don't ask your customers for the solutions. Ask them what's going on in their life and you need to create the solution. They don't always know the answer. 

Alex Bond: And both are companies that are more lifestyle based, you know, both companies actually Starbucks and Apple create a brand where people use their products daily and are lining apple specifically or lining up out the door even when they announce a new product because it is, I gotta have this stuff, you know. 

So more specifically about this framework and this resource, what are the four Ds specifically and how can we break that down? Because I think it's pretty simple, you know as a customer and someone curious, again, this is a free resource available. What are these four Ds and questions that we're asking? 

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: So we start with the most simple, the demographics. It's not always the most exciting, but we do wanna know, okay, who are we actually speaking to in terms of the factual information about them?

And it does help still with things like targeting on different platform. So it's great to know that demographics, factual information, age, life stage, you know, married, not married with kids, not kids. That can give you a lot of insights into people already. But then we come to the second one is D'S Desires, which is, I think the hardest one for people to understand and grasp and the one people skip the most.

So this is what are your customers needs once and desires? What's going on in their life, right? What makes them happy? What are their struggles? Or some people like calling pain points. You know, what is kind of missing? Or what would they like more? Just really understand what's going on in their life at the moment.

And then the third one is I say, do. What are they doing within your category? So here we start getting more into the product category that you are operating in. This is, how did they find you? How did they hear of you? Why did they buy you? Why didn't they? What other competitors or alternatives are they going to?

What are the triggers or barriers? You know, the people who are buying from you, what is making them actually say yes? And maybe for the ones who are following you, visiting your site, but not going ahead, what is stopping them from doing that? So really understanding the behavior within your category and with related to your business.

And the final one is delight. What makes them happy with that whole shopping experience? The experience shopping on your site, when they receive your product, what they do with it, what are they telling others about you? What are they telling competitors about the competitors so that you know how you compare to them.

So it's demographics, desires, do and delight. 

Alex Bond: Wonderful. That's simple enough, honestly. And I think what's really interesting in the checklist that these items that you outlined, a couple of these questions come up and they seem a bit sub subjective, honestly. And it's hard to attain from a customer.

So you know, a question like, what makes the customer happy? How do you a attain or try to quantify such a difficult question like that? 

Monica Sharma-Patnekar: Yeah, so see that as a checklist? So that's not the exact question you ask obviously. These are the checklist kind of points you'd like to answer and have an answer to.

So just going back to remembering that most of our purchases are subconscious. We buy on how we feel, and often what we see as humans, what we really do think and feel contradicts what we say. Cause as humans we tend to explain things based on logic. We rationalize things and you know, why did I buy those four pair of leggings?

Well, guess what? It just fits really nicely. Well, I mean, I had enough of them, but I still bought it. So there's a feeling of why I really wanted it, and that's what you wanna get to. Now how do we do that? Because now people are not lying to you. We just wanna make that clear. It's just they're not able to tap into that themselves always.

So it's a style of questioning I use, which is called actually customer story probing, where we invite our customers to tell us stories. Often you'll go, what's going on in your life when you make this purchase? You know? And then people are gonna start thinking and rationalizing like, okay, what was going on at that moment?

Instead of when we get to the happy question, just tell me about a recent moment in your life that just really made you happy and let them talk. Let them tell you a story. Why? Well, we use storytelling and marketing, right? Because stories are memorable. They're unique, they connect on an emotional level.

And it's the same thing when you invite there for people to tell you a story, instead of you telling them, they will tell you about what was really going on in their life recently. That was important. You know, maybe, I don't know. As a mom, you think it was a moment with that. But for all, you know, for them it was a moment when they were away from their house with their girlfriends.

Let them tell you what's important, so invite them to tell you stories. First and foremost, let them talk very open and always ask about situations and things that have happened. So that you actually get what the real situation versus asking them to predict things in the future. Those are the two things I would really start with.

And then obviously you can follow up with more standard open questions and close questions to really get more of the information you want. But just start with inviting your customers and people to tell you stories. It's like talking to a friend in a way. 

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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