two people on a balcony looking down at people on the street
How does your organization gather and, crucially, act upon the customer information at your disposal? PHOTO: Shane Rounce

The path from research to action has never been a smooth one. Many years before the dawn of the modern digital era, advertising guru David Ogilvy famously remarked on the tendency for marketing executives to use customer research “as a drunkard uses a lamppost, for support rather than for illumination.”

Things haven’t gotten any easier since Ogilvy’s heyday. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Too Much Data = Poor Insights

Faced with a constant firehose blast of customer insight data, many of today’s marketing practitioners are overwhelmed. There’s just too much to take in. And as a result, they’re having to triage customer information just to get through their day.

Given this looming backdrop of analytics overload, many business leaders would be wise to examine the dominant ideas that shape their organization’s behaviors and attitudes towards customer insight in order to illuminate approaches to better understand, segment and persuade their audiences.

It’s more than just figuring out how to streamline data technology resources. It’s about coming to an honest assessment of how an organization gathers and, crucially, acts upon the customer information at its disposal.

The ability to identify cost-saving efficiencies is a given outcome of this process. However, the potential to identify innovative, new and more effective customer relationship management practices is arguably much more valuable over the longer term.

Mapping Attitudes Towards Customer Insight

One invaluable approach you can take to get a better understanding of your own organization’s customer insights culture is to create a map of your team and/or individual team member attitudes towards customer information and how it is used and consumed.

This process is bound to reveal that every organization is peopled with individuals and groups with diverse and often divergent opinions about the value of customer research.

In setting up your customer insight attitude map, try to objectively determine where each of your team members falls within each these four key persona components:

1. Streamliners vs. Aggregators

Streamliners are those who believe that a single source of robust consumer analytics should be sufficient to allow them to segment, profile, target and attribute all customers. These folks tend to have a heavy bias towards quantitative data because of the promise (and sometimes illusion) of certainty that comes from large data samples. They don’t like having to draw from multiple sources because they strive for standardization.

On the other side of this persona component are the Aggregators — individuals and groups who believe that the customer experience cannot be reduced to a single quantitative set of data. These people tend to feel that the best marketing strategies emanate from the analysis of multiple layers of customer information. They see value in both quantitative and qualitative information.

2. Executive Summary Readers vs. Full Story Seekers

Executive summary readers are those individuals — or teams — who don’t have the time, patience or knowledge to understand the full customer insight picture. Nor do they really want any explanation of the research methodology involved. If they trust the authority of a research report, they’re usually happy to take an executive summary and apply it to their area of responsibility.

Conversely, Full Story Seekers are those individuals and teams who hunger for a richer customer insight story and want to consume research reports in their entirety. They often want to dive into specific pieces of information/data and will sometimes question the limits of the findings.

3. Fearers of Change vs. Active Explorers

Fearers of Change are those who want only to maintain and rely on existing and known sources of customer information. They’re skeptical of any customer insights drawn from external data sources, especially if those insights don’t gel with status quo strategies.

Active Explorers, meanwhile, are those who get excited (and perhaps distracted) by the world of untapped customer information they could potentially be using to inform their marketing decisions. They are less loyal users of existing data sources.

4. Gatekeepers vs. Sharers

Information Gatekeepers want to exercise their control over who has access to and use of customer insight information. Gatekeepers can serve an important role by helping to breed specialization and support quality control within an organization. However, their actions can also discourage critical thinking and lead to misunderstandings over strategic objectives among team members who aren’t given access to the story behind the data.

Sharers are those individuals who advocate for broad organizational access to customer information so that it can be analyzed and used to make better-informed marketing decisions. The downside of this approach is that customer insights can become shared too widely and used with little discipline, leading to negative outcomes.

You’ve Got the Map … Now What?

The insights that can be gleaned from an attitude mapping exercise of this nature are often eye-opening, as the depth and breadth of the divergences are usually unexpected and difficult to grasp from a management perspective.

However, rather than despair at the findings, you should feel confident the map will help you balance these differences as you structure your internal teams and challenge them to set goals to meet bigger marketing objectives — objectives that are guided by a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of your organization’s customers and what motivates them to remain customers over time.