April 01, 2021
Case Study

Customer Discovery: 3 quick case studies show how marketers learned about (internal and external) customers to increase web traffic, search visibility, and sales


It’s not the CEO. Not investors. Not the most brilliant inventors.

The most powerful force in capitalism is the customer.

So to better improve your marketing results, you have to better serve the customer. And to better serve the customer, you must better understand the customer. To help you do that, we bring you examples from an ecommerce business, marketing startup, and digital marketing agency.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Customer Discovery: 3 quick case studies show how marketers learned about (internal and external) customers to increase web traffic, search visibility, and sales

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

Marketing, at its essence, is a true service to customers in a marketplace filled with seemingly unlimited choice.

Marketing connects a thing of value (product, service, etc.) with a person who has an unmet need that value can fulfill.

But for this high-minded approach to marketing to work – and to get the massive results that come with filling a customer need – you must understand what the customer really wants. And that is why marketing is so challenging.

To learn how to transform your results by developing a cohesive theory of the customer, you can watch How to Create a Model of Your Customer’s Mind from MarketingExperiments (MarketingSherpa’s sister publication).​

And then read these three quick case studies from your peers to inspire your own journey of customer discovery.

In this article we bring you a story about an exercise equipment startup that used gaps expressed by a competitor’s customers to serve an unmet niche with their new product, how deeper understanding of customer language increased search visibility, and how discovering and filling the glaring gap internal customers (i.e. employees) experienced helped the team better serve external customers with content and increase web traffic.

Quick Case Study #1: Ecommerce business positions product as the premium option by discovering competitor’s flaws, generates $16,000+ in sales from $1,600 Facebook spend

“There was already a product on the market that did the exact same thing as ours. However, we felt we could make a solution that was better—though that meant we would be charging three times our competitor’s price. For reference: theirs is $59, ours is $175,” said Carly Jo Bell, co-founder, RotateMate.

In developing the accessory for Peloton bikes, the father-daughter team sought to directly address flaws in the incumbent competitor product. Bell discovered these flaws by joining relevant Facebook Groups, listening to what the competitor said about its own product, and considering what she would want.

When Bell participated in Peloton Facebook Groups, she kept an eye out for conversations happening around the competitor’s products.

For example, there were many posts asking something along the lines of, “I want the Bike+ because I want to turn and tilt my screen, but I don't want to pay the extra money. Should I get it?” (Editor’s note: The Bike+ is the upgraded Peloton bike that has this functionality built in).

People who kept the older Peloton bike but added a third-party device to get this functionality said, “I have [competitors’ product], and love it!” then other people would respond to that comment with statements such as, “yeah, but it lifts the screen 5 inches!” or “it’s hard to turn” or “the screen moves a lot at high cadences/output.”

Another one of the differences was gathered from the competitor’s own words – they said in a YouTube video that “sometimes it doesn't stay level.” So Bell used messaging that said the RotateMate “stays level.”

“My dad and I also thought about what we would want in a product. We didn't like the idea of the screen being lifted by five inches, because we knew there was likely a science as to why Peloton put their screen at the height they did originally. And watching our competitor’s YouTube videos of their product in motion, it seemed so hard to turn your screen,” she said.

In their Facebook video ad, Bell addressed the competitor with a video script that says, "By replacing the entire bar that holds your screen in place, the RotateMate is simple to turn, it stays level, and it even keeps your screen sturdy during the hardest of workouts—because who needs an extra jiggle in their life when that's what you're working out to lose?!" They repeated this message in several key spots on their website.

With $1,604.18 spent on Facebook ads in January, the ecommerce business made $16,226.27 in sales. “We've repeated these results in February and are only now looking at expanding our ads. We have had some people comment on ‘how expensive’ our product is, but we quickly learned that our TRUE market was ready and WILLING to pay a premium price for a premium product,” Bell said.

Bell knows the messaging is what got people to buy because in their reviews and emails customers are parroting the most important components of the messaging. They mention the various features that were specifically highlighted to differentiate the product from the competitor. For example, “looks exactly like the original Peloton bar,” messaging that targeted a common complaint made against the competitor – that their product was bulky and unattractive.

Quick Case Study #2: Employee survey informs internal wiki that helps marketing startup quadruple web traffic

Many companies have piles of valuable assets buried in the bowels of their team’s computers and shared drives. Mining and leveraging the information they have can lead to a stronger culture, more leads, and happier clients.

Here is the story of how Scott Ginsberg, Head of Content, Metric Collective, discovered what employees needed to be successful in their jobs and provided that info using an internal wiki at the holding company’s marketing startup, Metric Digital. (Editor’s note: we last heard from Scott in 2008 in How to Network at Conferences and Trade Shows: Mini-Guide).

“Our team suffered from lack of process. Everyone complained that it led to chaotic projects, confusion, lack of structure, poor documentation, less than effective training, inefficient workflows and wasted time and money,” Ginsberg said. As the company grew from five to twenty people, doing things consistently took precedent over constantly improvising.

Ginsberg spearheaded an internal wiki to easily share all company procedures, best practices, corporate learning and essential knowledge.

The whole project took three weeks to research, formulate and organize. Ginsberg began with a survey of all employees asking them questions like:

  • What do you use and share over and over again?
  • What resource or process would reduce repetition?
  • What are clients asking you to provide or do for them?
  • What are clients not asking for that you give them and they love it?
  • What resource would make onboarding easier, better, faster?
  • What do you do that you haven’t documented but that other team members would love to learn?

Ginsberg captured the data and with the help of a staff coding expert, developed, edited and published an online document system, the company’s internal wiki.

Creative Sample #1: Internal wiki homepage

Creative Sample #1: Internal wiki homepage

Creative Sample #2: Internal wiki subpage

Creative Sample #2: Internal wiki subpage

Thanks to the internal wiki, the HR team was able to cut onboarding time in half. Ramp up time went from one week to just a few days. Instead of having to figure out key processes on their own, new hires were handed a ready-to-go internal wiki telling them what they needed to know and do.

“As a leader, I've long known to prioritize creation and distribution when it comes to our content strategy,” said Eli Robinson, COO, Metric Collective. “Since we've committed to these methods, we've seen massive improvement in our results from content as a whole."

Content output increased ten-fold. Instead of new team members asking, “What am I supposed to do?”, the wiki site gave them instructions, information and context. This led to a massive increase in output on the company blog, newsletters, social media and other marketing channels. Staff and team member contributions also increased. Website traffic quadrupled within the first three months and increased steadily over the next two years.

“Before we had this system, we made a few failed attempts at building internal and external content. But once our company had reliable frameworks, we fixed this problem in a matter of months. If your company wants to drive massive increases in creative output, you need systems for inspiration, organization and execution. Ideas alone are not enough. They need scaffolding to grow, and a prolific leader focused on both volume and speed to shepherd them into the world,” said Ryan Markman, CEO/Co-Founder, Melior Hire (former COO, Metric Digital).

Over 100+ press mentions and improved SEO resulted from the wiki platform systematically capturing and sharing the team’s knowledge, news, and achievements in real time. With the continuous streamlined information updating capabilities, the newsletter and social media posts triggered media interest and requests for feature stories and interviews.

The startup was acquired by Wpromote last year, thanks in part to the value of the processes and the brand the team built – largely through content collaboration efforts – all assisted by the internal wiki. “Everyone got to share the acquisition bonus,” Ginsberg said. This wiki process has also been replicated at parent company Metric Collective.

“Small businesses prioritize speed and flexibility, often at the cost of structure,” he said. “Process is not a question with a yes or no answer. It’s a spectrum. A matter of degree. Every organization must find the right way to balance the need for clarity and certainty in business processes that also allow for the necessary freedom to be creative.”

Quick Case Study #3: Agency doubles organic search impressions by discovering keyword used more frequently by its blog’s readers

Zack Duncan is the president of a digital marketing agency called Root and Branch Group and also the Digital Marketing Executive in Residence at the University of Pittsburgh. “I've been experimenting with taking existing website content and using the free insights from Google Search Console to revise, reoptimize, and republish the content in an attempt to get increased search visibility and inbound traffic,” Duncan said.

He had a blog post with an initial keyword target that was “SEO vs Local SEO.” Using Google Search Console’s Performance report with various filtering and sorting tools to analyze time, URLs, and search queries, Duncan discovered that “National SEO” might be a more effective keyword to target than just “SEO.” “It’s essentially a synonymous term, but one that was used far more frequently by my readers,” he said.

Using Search Console, he could see that the piece of content in question was getting more search visibility (as measured by impressions in Google organic search) for a keyword that he did not optimize for (“local SEO vs national SEO”) than it was for the keyword that he did try to optimize for (“SEO vs local SEO”).

“The fact that there were more impressions coming from my ‘accidental’ keyword made me think it presented a much better SEO targeting opportunity than I had picked initially. I hypothesized this was simply because users were using slightly different language in their search terms than I had expected,” he said.

Duncan updated the blog post’s title tag (purple font in image below) and meta description (below the title tag in image below).

Creative Sample #3: New title tag and meta description for blog post

Creative Sample #3: New title tag and meta description for blog post

He updated the H1 headline as well to “Local SEO vs National SEO: What’s Different, What’s the Same, and How Do You Measure Them?”

He also made some minor changes to other elements on the page, including some on-page copy and some of the H2s. “But this was all pretty fast since I was essentially just swapping in one term for another term that was effectively synonymous,” Duncan said.

Since that time, the new targeted keyword of “Local SEO vs National SEO” is now ranking on the first page of Google, which has been driving a big increase in search visibility.

Creative Sample #4: Search visibility for modified blog post

Creative Sample #4: Search visibility for modified blog post

Related Resources

Customer Discovery: 4 mini marketing case studies showing how companies discovered what their customers wanted

7 Steps to Discovering Your Essential Value Proposition with Simple A/B Tests

Transparent Marketing: Research into social media marketing reveals surprising consumer discovery

Get the Infographic: How to Create a Model of Your Customer’s Mind

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