Do You Really Know Your Customer?

By Stevie Sleeter, Content & Social Media Manager

Published: April 14, 2014

According to The Economist, “if there were 10 Commandments for marketing, #1 would be: Know thy customer. While it’s one of the most fundamental principles in business, companies are still having trouble adhering to it.

Nearly three quarters of companies believe their budget for customer insights is too low, according to a recent survey of almost 700 senior executives. Even more disturbing, only 6% of companies surveyed understand customer needs extremely well while 45% of companies admit they have limited to no understanding on how their customers interact with them digitally.”

Which leads us to ask the questions: Do you really know your customer? And if you do, are you sure you know where to find them?

“Without the ability to understand customers, companies will find it difficult to be where their customers are. Part of the reason that companies are having trouble understanding their customers is that customer behavior itself is complex. For example, research shows that 44% of shoppers use their mobile phone while shopping to check websites, compare prices, and learn more about products.

However, the more fundamental reason is that shoppers are shopping in a different way that requires companies to change how they think about and interact with their customers. It used to be that marketing and sales leaders thought in terms of the classic funnel, which represents the buying process as an ever-narrowing array of decisions and choices until purchase, with little regard for the post-purchase experience. In reality, the channel-surfing customer of today is often expanding the set of choices and decisions after consideration. Customers now are also often actively engaged with the brand – and their friends and peers – after they’ve bought the product or service using social media and the Web.”

To adapt to these changes in customer behavior, companies must do two things:

  1. Understand their customer, where they are, and what they need at all times. This is accomplished through the exercise of strategic customer mapping.
  2. Using insights gathered above, clearly share and differentiate your company story as it aligns to your customers needs.

The first step is not difficult, but it takes a great degree of time, consideration, and understanding of a group of people. The latter is often more difficult because most companies define themselves by their product or service and not their differentiating value. In a recent Inc. article, Why You’re Not In the Business You Think You’re In, this problem is clear.

“If you concentrate too much on what you do or the product you sell, your product or service becomes a commodity–something that can be found on any shelf or street corner. When that happens, your only differentiators are price and options. It is far better and very important to take the time to understand what makes you and your company special.”

So think about it: What do you do better than anyone else?

For Apple, it’s not about computers or phones, their purpose comes to light in their tagline: “Think Different.” The same is true for Nike: “Just Do It,” and Zappos: “Delivering Happiness.”

Each of these companies sells a product. But more than that, each sells a promise or a feeling. So take a step back and think about your customer and what they need to make their lives easier, then think about what business you are really in. What do you provide that makes your customers love and need you? That’s the foundation of business success, both on- and offline.