The best marketers know more about their customers

By Katy Keim

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We think we know our customers. We think we understand what motivates, drives and excites them. We think that, thanks to all this “big data” we have at our fingertips, we can perfectly connect the dots between behavior and action.

But here’s the brutal and honest truth: We don’t really know our customers at all or nearly as well as we should.  

As marketers, it is easy to confuse data with knowledge. We forget that a single data point about a transaction or a social profile doesn’t tell the full story about a customer.

We have to dig deeper and do a better job of gleaning insights from all those ones and zeroes. Access to data simply gives us the benefit of having many points of reference to better understand who our customers are and what they truly care about.

That is why, when push comes to shove, we can’t forget that there are real, individual human beings behind this vast amount of data.

Now here is the catch: Based on Gartner research, only one percent — yes, only one percent — of companies that regularly tap into stores of social and legacy customer data actually use it to its full potential.

Seems mind-boggling, right?

So I suppose we need to ask ourselves, “What’s the purpose of having all this data if I am not asking and answering the right questions?”

Understanding customers on a deeper level

It’s time to close the gap. We have to understand our customers in more dimensions. Not only will this allow us to engage them at a deeper level, but also, and more importantly, it will benefit our customers tenfold.

Why? Because when we equip our marketing and customer service teams with useful, tangible insights, they can be more effective and efficient at building long-term relationships with customers. It helps shift the focus away from engaging in simple (trans)actions to driving loyalty via personalized interactions.

When we truly know more about the wants, needs and expectations of our customers — and can anticipate them in real time — we can change the very nature of customer service and fundamentally reshape the ways in which customers view our brands and businesses.

So, it’s time to start asking the types of questions that will give us the useful and meaningful data to know more about customers. For example, if you are a makeup retailer, you should be searching for answers to questions like:

  • When are customers buying for themselves, versus friends and family?
  • What is the one makeup item that customer can’t live without (e.g., mascara, eyeliner, lip gloss)?
  • What product does a customer buy frequently, and how can we proactively make a great pairing of products available to them?

Or, if you’re dog food company, you should be searching for answers to questions like:

  • Do you celebrate your dog’s birthday or other milestones (e.g., holidays, anniversaries, weddings)?
  • Does your dog have certain food allergies or sensitivities?
  • Do you travel with your dog, and if so, what’s their favorite travel snack?

Sixty-six percent of Americans in a recent survey said they expect the brands they do business with to know more about them now than even a year ago. Furthermore, 80 percent of Americans said it irritates them when a brand asks for personal information they’ve already provided.

It’s no secret that customer expectations are extremely high — and those expectations are only growing — so to be successful, brands must demonstrate value if they want customers to share information with them.

Plus, customers need to know how the information you request is relevant to their future experiences, whether that’s purchases, services or anything else. In fact, the same survey found that 52 percent agreed that they would be willing to share more information with brands if it meant receiving more of a personalized experience in return.

Unfortunately, the survey also found that only nine percent of Americans believe brands collect data to help their customers, and only seven percent believe brands that collect customer data do something useful with it.

Are they right?

I believe that customers want to trust you and build a relationship with you, and they’ll reward you for knowing them. To do that, you need to harness the power of transactional behavioral and social data. It’s time to know your customers in more than one dimension.

 

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