Commentary

Consumer Obsessions Become Next Marketing Intent Signal

Embrace customer obsessions. That's the word from a recently published Forrester Research study, but will obsessions replace or complement the intent signal when it comes to ad targeting? Will artificial intelligence in search algorithms make it that much easier to identify? What's the metric to measure customer obsessions and how do companies integrate this into their business model?

Forrester Research VP and Principal Analyst James McQuivey may not have all the answers, but he explains in a recent report -- Leadership In The Age Of The Customer -- why companies will need to focus on consumer obsessions.

McQuivey tells us in the report that five actions will lead companies to customer obsessions. Five years into the age of the customer, he suggests that next five will require companies to focus on making it easier for customers to do something they value more often.

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Go beyond today's standard operating model and embrace four principles: becoming customer-led, insights-driven, biased for action, and silo-transcending in how they operate. Apply these principles to the six levers on their operating model: structure, technology, processes, metrics, talent, and culture.

It may sound simple, but it's not, per McQuivey. He believes that moving all six of the operational levers at once will introduce risks and complexities, so he has been working to identify how to transition companies to this model he calls customer obsession as well as the achieving the size and time responses needed to reach the correct levels at the right times for each circumstance.

I'm thinking that marketers can take these "customer obsessions" and turn them into intent signals to build audience segments for a variety of ad targeting platforms from search to social to display. Ad-targeting platforms already do this to some extent, but to a lesser degree.  

McQuivey argues that companies need to identify these customer obsessions and move them into the company's operating model to become better align with its customers. 

For me the question becomes whether companies need or can change their operating model as their customers' obsessions change.

The key drivers of change include simplicity, immediacy and choice, however, it takes an agile company to move at the customer speed of change. I argue that most established companies cannot meet the demand. This type of speed is typically seen in startups.

McQuivey also explains how companies can determine the difficulty of the transition before taking it on. How difficult customer obsession will be for a company depends on things like regulatory issues within a specific industry such as pharmaceutical or automotive. He explains that regulated companies will have layers of compliance bureaucracy to navigate, each one adding time and effort to making a customer-obsessed pivot.

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