Marketers Give Mixed Grades On Listening For Data Signals, Struggle To See Customers As 'Humans'

Most marketers feel they are doing at least an “okay” job of listening for important behavioral signals about their customers, but a significant number feel they may already have lost sight of the most important thing those signals are supposed to represent: human beings.

That's one of the top insights in a new report, "Bringing A Human Voice To Customer Choice," being released today by the CMO Council in partnership with Harte Hanks.

Asked what their greatest consumer data challenge actually is, 29% of senior marketing executives responding to a survey said: “thinking about our customers as humans...not just targets.”

“Somewhere in our adoption of data, technology and process, the customer and the very real, human and fragile relationships that marketers have worked so hard to build have been lost, giving way to settling for assumptions about broad personas and an almost obsessive focus on campaign performance,” CMO Council Senior Vice President of Marketing Liz Miller says of the report’s revealing finding, adding: “What came to life most notably in this research was the absolute desire of marketers to go back to their roots of relationship builders, leveraging the ‘why’ behind customer actions and intentions to build lasting dialogues with customers instead of just pushing accounts and targets down a pre-set campaign path.”

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As far as self-reported report cards go, the study signals that marketers are relatively confident about their ability to stay on top of the most meaningful signals coming from customers, although not a single respondent indicated that they were “well prepared to integrate new experiences and new points of intelligence” into their process to improve their brand’s engagement with customers.

Only about a quarter of the respondents gave themselves a failing grade, indicating that they were either “not very good” (17%) or “terrible” (7%) at reading meaningful behavioral signals.

Email overwhelmingly dominates the platforms or sources that marketers feel they glean the best signals from, followed by interaction with sales representatives and social media channels.

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