We’ve all heard that the core of any strategy is understanding the customer. It’s easy to believe that we do understand yet in reality we don’t without actually designing strategy around true customer preferences especially if they conflict with the internal team’s preferences.
Recently we asked three marketing experts to share their advice on ways to actionably empathize with customers and build Norm Breaking™ marketing strategies.
Expert Panel Members:
Discussion & Advice:
Q: How do you discover the behaviors that drive customer behavior, especially those that customers themselves may not be aware of?
Jessica Li: I listen to a lot of Gong calls to hear the emotion in people’s voices and I ask people in user research to pitch my product back to me; this is a good test of their actual understanding and enthusiasm. Next I follow the data (remember, actions speak louder than words).
Marcus Collins: I’m a firm believer that we can glean rich understandings about consumers through observation. That is to say, the empirical data that is captured from watching how people behave, how they participate in social discourse, and how they engage in daily life tells us more about who they are and how they see the world than what self-reported data might convey. Therefore, I typically rely on social listening, Google Trends, and ethnographic techniques to understand how people make meaning.
Daniel Murray: Listening to sales calls, talking to buyers 1 on 1, social listening, A/B test messaging on each website.
Janelle Jolley: It’s important to utilize different strategies for different stages of the product lifecycle, as well as different types of products. Ask yourself if is this a product category that is already out in the market by competitors?
Is it a paradigm shift from legacy products — are you trying to create an entirely new category of value?
For instance, when undergoing product development for a company’s brand new product, which already has some competitors selling something similar, I find it useful to conduct a competitive analysis of the product landscape. This competitive analysis should help your company clarify your company’s goals with the product (i.e. steal market share? add to legacy offering(s) to maintain customer base? establish a profitable business unit?). From there, conducting thorough customer research with explicit questions around willingness to pay (with a specific figure) should uncover underlying customer drivers of purchase behavior.
Q: How do you make sure that customers’ perspectives are at the core of your product development and launch decisions?
Jessica Li: I recommend conducting tons of user interviews with consultants (so they are incentivized to go into detail and be open and honest with us, because conducting the research ourselves sometimes biases answers).
Conduct AB testing whenever possible to quantitatively validate ideas and build in flexibility to be able to adapt to new insights from customer (in the product and engineering architecture).
Marcus Collins: My goto technique is the netnography [analyzing networks, behavior, and conversations online, however, I also conduct psychophysiological testing and A/B testing to insure that we’re delivering the right thing to the right people within the right context.
Daniel Murray: Constantly survey customers, make customer service reps ask questions, engage in social listening.
Janelle Jolley: The qualitative data from customer research/user studies has to come first! Which means that user studies need to be conducted before and after the prototyping phase in order to validate that the users’ needs are being met with your product or service. Additionally, I find that it’s a good practice to follow up with users within 30 days of product launch to gauge their satisfaction with the product (while also monitoring user data closely, and in an ongoing fashion).
Q: What is the right cadence to talk to customers, before and after a product launch?
Jessica Li: Frankly as much as possible but that depends on company size and bandwidth, B2B vs B2C, how rapidly the industry is evolving, how comprehensive the product is, and what stage the company is in its roadmap. There is no one size fits all.
Marcus Collins:I think it’s less “talking to” and more “talking with.” Our aim is to engage in a dialogue with consumers because (a) it helps establish relationship, (b) it grants the marketer more “at-bats” to aid the meaning-making process and
(c) we learn from consumers in ways that are more telling
than the binary “purchase or no purchase” vote that happens
during transaction. Therefore, our interactions with
consumers should be continual and fluid.
Daniel Murray: At least once a week
Janelle Jolley: That depends on the product and the product’s lifecycle! However, it’s a good rule of thumb to do a customer satisfaction survey at least twice a year post launch. Before launch, you should be talking to customers after each new prototype for user testing and functionality (not necessarily the same customer, but shoot for having at least one dedicated design partner that is willing to be your test guinea pig).
Expert Panel Discussion: How To Build A Customer-Focused Go To Market Strategy was originally published in Strategica Partners on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.