There is More to Knowing Customers Than Big Data

Are CMOs wasting their budgets on failed marketing initiatives?  According to a recent Forbes Insight Study 69% of CEOs either agree or strongly agree they certainly are.

The leading cause of this sentiment is a lack of customer insight. The study reports that 74% of CEOs have “limited insight” into how customers are engaging with their products and what their likes and dislikes are. Plain and simple, CEOs do not have confidence that marketing knows their buyers and this has them wondering, rightfully so, why they should be investing any more money on marketing activity that simply misses the mark?

The authors of the study go onto show that big data is the savior to the CMOs ills when it comes to knowing your customer. The numbers show that companies that “know” big data have more success with their marketing as well as a better relationship with their customer. However, big data alone will not entirely close the gap on customer insights and knowledge. While data analysis can and should be a marketers right hand, there are a few other steps marketers need to take to get a very clear picture of their buyer:

1. Ask Them

I am continually amazed at the number of marketers that do not connect with their customers/buyers on a regular basis.  Of those that do, I find many ask leading questions such as “what did you like about our product that made you choose us?” That’s not a question that really gives the buyer a chance to be honest; it virtually forces them into a “well your product is so great” kind of answer.

If, as a marketer you are not in the habit of talking to your buyer, start now. If you are and ask leading questions, change now and ask more open ended questions such as:

  • What were the challenges you were looking to address when you began your search for a product/vendor
  • Who were the people in your organization that were a part of the buying committee
  • How did each member of the committee view this purchase?
  • What steps did you take through the buying process?

These kind of open-ended questions will not only give you great insight, they will allow your buyer to truly open up and tell you all about a day in their life. This is vital information that data cannot tell you.

2. Ask Those Who Are Not Your Customers

If you truly want to get into the mind of your ideal buyer, ask those folks who are not your customers. Similar to the questions you ask your buyers, keep the questions open-ended and not so focused on “why did you not choose us?”

While there is great likelihood you will find similarities in the feedback you get from your customers, there is also information you will glean that is far different as there is no bias to your companies’ products or services.

3. Talk With Sales

No other department has as much interaction with customers (except customer support perhaps)than sales. Yet for some reason, many marketers I meet are loath to sit down and ask sales about their view of their customers.  his should be a common occurrence between marketing and sales as it will provide another dimension to the persona that marketing is developing.

4. Do The Research

There are many factors that go into why customers do and do not interact with organizations. Many of these are a result of what is going on in a specific industry. Last week I was speaking to a client who informed me of new legislation that had been passed in a number of states that was now changing the buying behavior of their ideal buyers.

While some of this information may be brought to the surface by the interviews with customers and non-customers, marketers need to begin doing in-depth research on the world in which their buyers live. It is important to understand at a market level budget forecasts, regulation and legislation that may impact buyers and their unique business challenges. This will only be accomplished by researching your buyers’ industry.

While having big data on your customer and “knowing” that data is a big competitive advantage for marketers, true customer knowledge and insight cannot simply stop with data, it must go further. We will not get a clear picture or build strong relationships with our buyers (who lest we forget are human) by reducing the relationship to a data set. Marketers must do more than analyze their customer data, they must truly get up close and personal with their buyers. The combination of the two is what makes the difference.

Author: Carlos Hidalgo @cahidalgo is CEO and Principal, ANNUITAS

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