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When It Comes To Marketing, You Are Not Your Customer

Ninety percent of marketers own smartphones, compared with only 51% of consumers. While many companies are hyper-focused on mobile marketing channels, they could be inadvertently letting their own biases as early adopters keep them from reaching the approximately 49% of consumers who don’t yet own a smartphone.

When it comes to marketing, you are not your customer. You might dress like your customer, shop like your customer, or even act like your customer—but at the end of the day you’re always going to see things through the eyes of a marketer.

You can’t just sit in a cubicle all day poring over spreadsheets and expect to learn everything there is to know about your customers. If you really want to think like your customers, you’ve got to understand the relevancy of all of that data, and that means you’ve got to get out there and actually talk to people.

Scott Dorsey, CEO of ExactTarget, says that smart companies don't structure themselves around internal data silos, but rather around "providing an intuitive, personalized, and engaging customer experience." Data is used to help understand and support the creation of this customer experience. Companies, and marketers especially, should view and gather data from all consumer touch points for a single view of the customer, rather than segmenting the view by a specific channel or platform.

Instead of relying entirely on Big Data, communicating with your customers gives you a chance to hear directly from them about what they like or don’t like about your products, packaging, services, website, or even your social media profiles. If you’re able to meet with them face-to-face or speak with them over the phone, that’s even better. Doing so gives you a chance to ask follow-up questions based on their responses that otherwise might not have been possible if you relied on their responses to a typical web survey.

Of course you can ask questions until the cows come home and it won’t mean anything unless you are totally committed to listening to what they have to say. That doesn’t mean you have to immediately change direction the first time you hear some negative feedback, quite the contrary. It means you have to objectively hear what’s being said and be on the lookout for any themes or trends. My former boss always encouraged us to consider at least three data points before making a decision—a strategy I still use to this day to eliminate random outliers and noise.

But don’t stop there. With those insights in mind, call your customer support line. Walk your store. Make a purchase. See if your customers are able to have a seamless conversation across all of your online and offline touch points. What did you enjoy most about the experience? Is there anything you think your customers would find frustrating?

When it comes to cross channel marketing, there are no silver bullets or magic elixirs. Creating a Facebook page, Twitter profile, or e-newsletter isn’t enough. You’ve also got to be on the lookout for behavioral cues that you can use to enhance their shopping experience. Marketing conversations about your customers and your customer experience might start with data, but if you really want to think like your customers you’ve got to actually talk to your customers and listen.

[Image: Flickr user Steve Dean]