It's Time To Really Listen To Your Customers

If you're not directly talking with your customers, prepare to become irrelevant.

Before the advent of social media, advertisers relied on broad, generalized content based primarily on customer demographics. Now, consumers expect information to be specifically tailored to them. Thanks to the range of direct connections available through social media platforms, companies have the capacity to listen to -- and understand -- their customers’ needs.

Marketers should direct their focus toward consumer behavior and buyer personas instead of pigeonholing consumers with old methodologies. Putting customers and their behaviors at the very heart of a company’s marketing strategy provides valuable insights that create competitive advantages and the unique experience that customers expect.

Keep a competitive edge

Demographic and psychographic data both fall short in describing or predicting the behaviors of individual customers. Creating buyer personas using qualitative research can provide insights into consumers’ lives and allow marketers to more effectively target prospective customers.



Amazon does an exceptional job at this. The site compiles a user’s search history, wish list, and purchases to suggest products they might like, creating a unique experience. 

Armed with meaningful information, companies can deliver relevant content through the Web and emails. Research shows that using buyer personas in email campaigns results in open rates that are twice as high and a fivefold increase in click-through rates -- obvious payoffs for the time and effort.

But buyer personas can’t be static snapshots. Persistent qualitative research and evolving algorithms are required to maintain a competitive edge.

Ask the right questions

Only 36 percent of marketers create dynamic content based on individual user profiles, according to a Demandbase study, and just 31 percent of marketers surveyed said they had a complete understanding of their target markets.

It’s no wonder so many companies have trouble understanding their audience: they’re not having the conversations that are vital to understanding customer behaviors.

If you’re wondering how to start, try answering the following questions:

  • What do your customers value and believe?
  • What are their goals and biggest challenges?
  • What influences their purchase decisions?
  • Where do they look for information online and offline?
  • Which social platforms do they use?
  • Which industry magazines and trade journals do they read?
  • What organizations do they belong to?
  • What trade shows and industry events do they attend?

Developing good buyer personas requires a departure from the traditional thinking of consumers’ purchasing decisions as a funnel. Buying decisions are non-linear journeys, and the average customer visits more than seven sources before making a purchase.

Leveraging behavioral data

Coupled with behavioral data, marketing automation allows advertisers to target individuals on a remarkably detailed level across multiple channels, including Web sites, social media, and mobile devices.

The goal is to use that data to create algorithms that can predict purchases and usage. Companies can then offer products and services that are more valuable to their customers, and there are more opportunities for upselling and cross-selling for increased revenue.

Customers want to be heard

If this seems like too much work, consider the alternative: Irrelevance equals extinction. Failing to focus on your customers leads to decision-making based on assumptions formulated within a vacuum.

Companies that engage with their customers will be pleasantly surprised by how many good ideas come directly from them. These ideas lead to the things customers want to buy -- and the exceptional experience they hope for.

Brand loyalty and positive word of mouth are driven more and more by great customer experiences, and deep insight into buyer behaviors and habits will help your company deliver exactly what your customers are looking for.

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