Seek First to Understand

“Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.” H.H. Williams

All successful marketing efforts, (whether they are online, word of mouth, direct mail, you name it) have one thing in common. It’s so simple and yet so often overlooked and as hard as it is to believe intentionally ignored. And yet it’s the one ingredient that can set you a part. So what is this simple ingredient you ask?

That simple ingredient is understanding. It’s understanding the market conditions, who you are trying to reach, is there a competitive offer/product already on the market, how your brand is perceived, how your offer is perceived. And I’m just getting started. Simply put the more you know about the market, your target and your product or solution then the better armed you will be to craft a message and offer that will resonate in the marketplace.

At one point in my career I was charged the daunting task of stopping the attrition on a legacy product. The customer base was a significant part of the entire customer base and while we weren’t planning any more upgrades to the product the revenue was important to our shareholders.  When I was briefed about the project, I noticed that we didn’t have any hard data about the demographics of this base of customers. In short, we had lots of opinion about the base but no hard facts.  After a little bit of research we were able to gain valuable understanding into the base. Using the new insight into the base we crafted a loyalty program that not only stopped the attrition but actually grew the base and in record time.

As marketers, it critical that in spite of the demands put on us that we seek to understand first. Today it’s easier than ever to gain understanding, and in record time with the use of social media. Gone are the days of “if you build it they will come. The brands who are going to their customers rather than waiting for them to come to them are the ones with the edge.

I’m curious, how are you seeking to understand your customers? What tools do you find most valuable?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

toddschnick January 24, 2010 at

Good stuff Robyn. While you are correct that there are more tools that make understanding easier, I still find a lot of people missing the key ingredient: listening. One of the reasons people don't understand? They don't listen. Why did Democrats lose this past Tuesday? They weren't listening to the people.

Thanks for making me think about this…

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Robyn January 24, 2010 at

Todd, I absolutely agree with you! Active listening is the greatest tool in any marketer’s arsenal.

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