March 18, 2014

Marketing Research Chart: Question your assumptions for true customer-centric marketing

SUMMARY: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," Albert Einstein said.

This is true when it comes to your customers as well. Do you question your assumptions about your customers?

"We discovered that … " are three of the most powerful words in customer-centric marketing, especially when you learn something counterintuitive. In this MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week, we discovered the difficulty of customer intelligence assessment methods.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

"We discovered that the way our customers navigated through the site needed vast improvements. Since redesigning the navigation of the site, we are able to notice customers progress easily to an opt-in or CTA (call-to-action)."

The above marketer's insight is from the Website Optimization Benchmark Report survey. To gain an understanding of the most, and least, difficult ways to discover information about customers, in this Benchmark Report survey, we asked marketers:

Q: Of the assessment methods employed by your company, please rate each in terms of DIFFICULTY:

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Click here to see a printable version of this chart

"So is a lot."

This is the other half of Einstein's aforementioned quote — "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" — that people usually forget.

Knowing a little bit can lead to more bad decisions than knowing nothing (more on that in a bit), but being deluged with information isn't always helpful either.

This is the first thought that comes to mind when I see that marketers considered "internal metric analysis" to be the easiest of the surveyed tactics (albeit, with only 17% saying so).

While internal metric analysis may be the easier information to collect — from an analytics platform or transactional data, which is easier than organizing a focus group or running a test — is it really the easiest information to help you discover new insights about the customer?

Put simply — what do all of those numbers really mean?

Perhaps it's a good place to start, but at this point you're only making more assumptions based on more information. At some point, it helps to actually test these assumptions to overcome ...

Overconfidence bias

This is where a little knowledge can be dangerous. Wikipedia defines the overconfidence effect as "a well-established bias in which someone's subjective confidence in their judgments is reliably greater than their objective accuracy, especially when confidence is relatively high."

Sometimes we overemphasize our understanding of the customer because:
  • We have a lot of experience in marketing (When should we question our intuition?)

  • Particularly good or bad feedback from one customer influences our customer logic (Are they an outlier?)

  • Something has worked in the past under a seemingly similar situation (Were there subtle differences we are unaware of?)

There are dozens of decisions we need to make every day that affect the customer and we cannot possibly question them all.

However, when we are going to make a big investment, a big change or have not changed something for a long time, it's worth performing an internal metric analysis and then testing in a real-world situation to question the analysis and see what really works with actual customers.

According to the Benchmark Report survey, A/B testing is the least difficult (with 31% of respondents indicating so) way to achieve that feedback from customers.

"Listen to the members," Gaurav Bhatia, VP of Digital Strategy, AARP Services, said. "Test what they're telling you versus assuming about them and doing what you think is right."

What can you discover?

To see an example of what you can learn about customers, watch Bhatia's full (and free) session from Optimization Summit 2013 — "Digital Optimization: How AARP Services increased referrals and membership renewals."

Related Resources

Customer-centric Marketing: Survey program turned 30% of unsatisfied software customers into brand advocates

Customer-centric Marketing: 7 triggers to engage customers and build loyalty

Customer-centric Marketing: Adding fun to B2B

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