This Key Field Holds the Secret to Marketing Success


The verdict is: A whopping percent of marketers deep customer understanding is the keying sustained success, but only two in five are actually to unlock market research to fuel this understanding. As a marketer myself, I understand this conflict.

Great marketers prioritize the end audience in all the content they produce. They target marketing campaigns to connect with customers across their various need states. They center their content strategies around the channels where their customers can be found. They adjust the tone, visual styles, and messaging of content to ensure it resonates with diverse customer segments. But even many of the best marketers admit to relying on their gut instincts over hard data to inform these decisions.

It can be easy to rest on one’s laurels as a marketer, especially if you’ve celebrated a history of successful campaigns and steady growth. But, thanks to the pandemic and a wave of new innovations, the modern customer is evolving faster than ever expected. Nearly half of marketing professionals surveyed admit to fear in this new normal. They fear they won’t be able to keep up with this state of constant change. They fear their teams do not have the skills or tools necessary to be fully present for their customers. And they fear a future where new data collected on their customers one day, will feel old and dated the next.

From these fears comes great opportunity. In a world where less than half of marketers compile relevant insights, it’s those who are willing to adapt that have the upper hand. Modern marketers must change the way they think about marketing entirely. They must become truly customer-centric by thinking like researchers and designers first, before letting this new mentality inform their forward-looking strategies.

Ultimately, if you are a marketer seeking long-term success, you must become an expert in CX. How you achieve this may vary, but here are some changes you can make today to revolutionize your marketing strategy tomorrow:

1. Invest in Nimble Learning Systems to Support Proactive Strategy Adjustments

Collecting relevant insights about your customers can be an arduous task. For many brands, it’s a manual process requiring months of field research, one-on-one interviews with brand loyalists, and in-depth surveying to get a thorough understanding of one’s customer base. While this method is extremely valuable and one that can validate or challenge long-held assumptions, it can be hard to invest in this approach more than once every two to three years. And with the rate of change the modern customer is experiencing, data gathered more than a year ago might already be moot.

Marketers rely heavily on analytics tools to measure the digital actions of their customers. Through tools like Google Analytics, for example, we can determine on-site user behavior and adjust the user experience to drive more conversions. We can identify the channels our customers find us on, the pages in which they lose interest, and the content that truly matters to them. This data is a goldmine for marketers eager to optimize and adjust campaigns. But on-site analytics doesn’t have to be our only tool.

Marketers looking to compete in this new world must think beyond on-site analytics and invest in customer and social analytics solutions as well. These powerful insights programs can deliver data at a regular cadence to support proactive strategy adjustments. They can be used in addition to more robust field studies or as standalone tools to keep your finger on the pulse of your customer in real-time.

Most marketers, however, continue to ignore this opportunity. Only 44 percent of marketers today even conduct research to re-evaluate their predetermined target audiences, 42 percent are taking action to better understand their existing customers, and only 40 percent are segmenting their audiences to better target their campaigns. To get ahead of your competitors, start investing in more nimble, real-time analytics systems that can take some of the guesswork out of your CX strategy.

2. Consider Your Whole MarketplaceConsumers, Competitors, and Category

While you might feel that knowing your customer is all you need to become an expert in CX, its actually just one leg in a three-legged stool of sorts. Understanding your customers is essential, but you must also stay on top of changes in your category and moves among your competitors. By culling insights in these two arenas, you will have a far better understanding of your customer needs, motivations, and loyalties.

For example, finding out that your customers are choosing to purchase from a competitor might encourage a reevaluation of your strategy. But understanding why Your customers have chosen the competitor can prove even more valuable. A shift in your category may have impacted your customer’s ability to buy from you. Maybe a competitor changed their value proposition just slightly and that resonated better with your customer. Whatever the shift may be, simply knowing that you are losing out to the competition is not enough to provide deep insights into your customer’s motivations for choosing them over your brand.

Prioritizing data collection that will fuel insights into your brand awareness in your category, your competition’s movements in the marketplace, and how your customers perceive your overall industry can make a huge impact on your marketing strategy. But marketers continue to deprioritize this trifecta of understanding. Only 37 percent of marketers spent the previous year learning about their competitors, only 31 percent took the time to learn more about their category, and only 34 percent invest in competitive research. Join this small group of marketers by prioritizing research beyond your customer and you’ll have a great competitive edge.

3. Pursue Data-Driven Execution to Drive Future Success

The next time you plan a marketing campaign without up-to-date customer, competitor, and category data to support it, consider the adage “to assume is to make a fool out of you and me.” It’s wrong to assume that your customer hasn’t evolved over the years. From the pandemic to political unrest and so much more, we have all shifted our behaviors greatly.

Today’s customers have changed where they shop, how they shop, what they believe, how they want to interact with brands, how they hold brands accountable, and so much more. It’s clear that most marketers are not gathering the data necessary to adjust their strategies to meet the current moment. Marketers who become experts in CX, on the other hand, have a real opportunity to leap ahead of the competition.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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