Know Thy Customer

September 14th, 2010 by Marcus Tewksbury

For a while now we’ve all heard plenty about how the emerging trend in marketing is moving towards “content marketing” or the creation of custom pieces aimed at generating a relevant engagement at a specific point of time.

What I’ve found lacking in the discourse, however, is a real pragmatic approach to leveraging this for marketing purposes.  Part of the explanation for this is certainly that it’s not an easy thing to do.  It is, however, possible to apply a methodology for content creation that will consistently outperform traditional approaches.

Over the coming weeks I will begin to breakdown the evolving approach I’ve seen work for a number of clients.  As a starting point, I’ll focus on getting to know the customer.  This is the key starting point for any content strategy.  If you don’t understand what makes them tick you can’t consistently generate interesting perspectives.  There are a lot of very tactical, very actionable steps you can take.  In fact… there are at least 15 of them!  Some of these will certainly be familiar, but on the whole hope you will take away some nuggets and a plan on how to string them all together to greatest effect.

All successful marketing and sales teams ultimately have one thing in common – a thorough understanding of the customer and his/her needs.  At times, when we get wrapped up in all the complexities and granularity of the day to day, it can be easy to lose sight of the customer.  This is a problem that plagues both sales and marketing.  For every marketer batching and blasting with tired, irrelevant messages there is a salesman vomiting product shtick.  To be consistently successful it is imperative that we rediscover the voice of the customer.

Unfortunately, this is no easy task.  Traditionally the process of customer discovery has been greater part art than science.  On one end we have scientific, media research groups generating new “insights” and on the other squishy coaches like Carnegie who educates on how to be better listeners, how to develop deeper understanding, and ultimately how to move people.  Becoming customer centric will require doses of both.

To start, you need a process.  There is a lot of ground to cover in building relationships.  The first step is about narrowing your audience and evaluating your likelihood of success.  Think of it as combining a Godin “Best In The World” concept with a Porter’s Five Forces.  After that making a go-no-go decision it’s time for a serious deep dive, clinical analysis into all things your customer.  Interviews, analysts reports, online research, profile data, and any other source that lends insight to your customer’s behaviors, need, and pains.  The goal of this process is to make sure you’ve picked a market where you can compete and that you’ve learned enough about your customers to effectively communicate with them.

Once you get to this point your opportunities are boundless.  The only constraint you face is your ability to educate your team and getting them revolving around the customer with stories that attract and convert.

Takeaways:

•    Both sales & marketing need to rediscover the voice of the customer
•    Understanding customers requires art and science
•    You can consistently generate improved outcomes with a methodical approach

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