INBOX INSIGHTS, October 11, 2023: Understanding Customer Needs With Purpose and Data

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Understanding Customer Needs With a Purpose

Each week when I sit down to write the opening to the newsletter I ask myself, what would be helpful? I don’t want to talk (or write) at you. I want to make sure that if you’re spending time reading what we’ve put together for you, that you’re getting something valuable out of it.

And therein lies the issue – what is valuable to you might not be valuable to me. That doesn’t mean it’s not important. It means that I need to work harder to understand your needs to ensure that you’re getting them met.

So, how to do you, the marketer, go about understanding the needs of your audience? Chris talks about this in the Data Diaries below. You ask them what they need.

A family member reached out to me the other day because he’s thinking of starting a business in a saturated market. He feels that he has a unique value that he can add. Because I’m in his target demographic he asked me, “what would appeal to you?” This is a simple, but strong, question. I’ve been thinking about it since he asked, compiling my thoughts to be as helpful as possible.

When I worked as a product manager, the team wanted to reach out to customers to ask them what they wanted but struggled to do so. We put together a Voice of Customer (VOC) strategy. The plan was overthought, overcomplicated, and overdeveloped. We spent so much time scrutinizing the questions we wanted to ask that we never got around to asking them. We were so paralyzed with concern over getting it right that we never considered what we would do if we got it wrong.

The worst kept secret in VOC research is that it’s okay to get it wrong. You can ask the wrong questions. You can collect the wrong data. You can make the decisions. Yes, you can. What you cannot do is accept that it’s wrong and move onto something else.

When I look back at the mistakes I’ve made in my career, both big and small, I cringe. There were a lot of mistakes I could have avoided if I took action. If I were okay with making mistakes. Asking my customers how we could have improved the product is one of those mistakes I would fix. Hands down, no question.

What should we have done differently? We should have picked up the phone. We should have had a conversation. We should have been more clear on our purpose.

Purpose. That was the heart of the issue. We could not agree on our purpose. That is why we failed to get started. We had a lot of internal agendas and stakeholders. Too many. Each individual had their own set of data they were after, for their own reasons. We failed to see that we were all working toward the same business goal, which was to sell more seats in the product. We let our egos get in the way. Wa all wanted our own way. So instead of asking basic questions like, “what do you need?”, or “what would help you do your job better?”, we focused on ourselves. We were selfish and our customers suffered because of it. We put our needs first.

Having a clear purpose is always a good starting point for any initiative. It helps you focus on your “why”. When I look back, that’s where we went wrong. We didn’t focus on the, “why”, we fixated on the, “what”. We could have benefited from a solid set of user stories.

A user story is a simple, three-part sentence:

As a [persona], I [want to], so [that].

The “persona” would have been each of us. Our perspectives. Every single person involved should have created their own user story. The “want to” would have been our what. What we wanted to do. And the “that” would have been our why, our purpose. We skipped over this part of the planning process completely and failed spectacularly. User stories would have helped us get our of our own way. We could have refocused on the needs of the customers and not ourselves.

This was a long winded way of sharing my experience with you in the hopes that you would learn from my mistakes and find some value. The take away is to do something. Figure out why you’re doing it and then do it. And then learn from it. Do it again. Keep trying. Don’t let the process of planning get in the way of doing. Ask basic questions. See what happens.

When I talk to my family member next, I am going to share with him my initial thoughts about his business idea. Then I will suggest other places he should seek information. He’ll keep asking until he feels like he has enough to get started, and then he’ll ask more questions.

But do it with purpose.

Are you meeting the needs of your audience? Reply to this email or come join the conversation in our Free Slack Group, Analytics for Marketers.

– Katie Robbert, CEO

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Binge Watch and Listen

In this episode of In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast, Katie and Chris discuss key takeaways from the recent MarketingProfs B2B Forum conference. We cover topics like AI, digital marketing tactics, and generative content. Katie shares insights on non-AI focused sessions and the importance of remembering that technology is just a tool. Chris discusses legal implications around AI and copyright. We talk about the risks of over relying on AI, forgetting basic marketing skills, and striking a balance between technology and fundamentals. Overall, we provide an informative recap of B2B Forum while emphasizing the need to use AI wisely and maintain core competencies.

Watch/listen to this episode of In-Ear Insights here »

Last time on So What? The Marketing Analytics and Insights Livestream, we talked through crisis communications with special guest Gini Dietrich. Catch the episode replay here!

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Data Diaries: Interesting Data We Found

One of the biggest challenges with the fractured social media landscape we face as marketers is what to do about previously reliable public data. For more than 15 years, marketers and the general public relied – perhaps too heavily – on the social graph that Twitter provided. With the current changes in management and population, Twitter’s audience has become something of a diaspora. A good number of people have stayed with the new platform, X, while others have migrated to Mastodon, Blue Sky, or Threads as direct successors, plus networks like LinkedIn as alternatives. Meanwhile, social media behaviors themselves have changed; people have chosen to move out of the public eye to private communities such as Slack, Discord, Guild, and many others.

What’s a marketer to do when the audience fractures like this into so many pieces? How do we adapt our use of data to determine what’s hot and what’s not when the collective public water cooler is scattered across the Internet?

First, let’s think through what our purpose is for collecting the data. What did we do with it? What would we like to do with it now? Once you’re clear on what you want to do, you can make decisions about what data you need and where you might get it. For example, suppose you want to gather sentiment about your company’s products and services so that you can judge how well the market has received your product.

Once you’ve established your purpose, take a look at the data still available to you. Does that data meet your needs? Using the example of sentiment analysis, if we previously relied on Twitter for that data, does X have it still? What about organic search data, or YouTube data?

One of the easiest ways to gather this data correctly is to simply ask your audience. Ask them buying signal questions, such as “When you want to learn more about a product or service, where do you go?” With today’s generative AI tools, it’s now much simpler to reduce free-form responses in surveys to organized, quantitative data that you can analyze.

For example, we ask you at the beginning of the month in this newsletter about your intent to recommend us to a colleague. We extract and analyze that data so that we know how you feel in general about us – and that data comes directly from you, no social network needed.

Net Promoter Data

If you don’t have access to solid first party data, then one of your strategic imperatives for the coming year should be to build a pool of reliable first party data. This means creating a community of some kind like the Analytics for Marketers Slack community, or an email list like this one that you can ask survey questions to. Put some ad spend behind your community building; think about what a single survey costs when commissioned with a market research firm, and put that budget towards growing a community. If you do it well, it’ll pay multiples on your investment compared to a single one-off research project.

There’s no easy substitute for the loss of Twitter data, but there are viable alternatives once you build the necessary infrastructure and relationships with your audience.

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