It’s an organic capability that should be developed in your own organization rather than one which can be outsourced to another firm.
Why? Because you nurture and retain the attributes that will distinguish your organization from the competitive hordes, and customer learning is one of the traits that will separate you from others and drive superlative performance’.
Most organizations rely on Market Research to try and understand customer demand; Customer Learning is the breakaway tool to make you DiFFERENT.
In addition, online tracking tools that monitor individuals’ behaviour on websites and search engines don’t try and understand the customer, they merely want to observe the products or services people click on and push advertising to them. One could argue that observing behaviour is a form of learning, but when the outcome is to have advertising messages relentlessly pushed at you when you are on the web, it has the pusher’s benefits in mind not the surfers.
This marketing tactic is a product flogging technique not a learning one.
Here is a comparison between the common Herd approach to mining customer data and the approach I used to take a startup to A BILLION IN SALES.
- evaluates the market periodically.
- can be (and is often done so) outsourced to an external firm.
- is viewed as a study.
- takes a snapshot of a customer at a point in time.
- takes a narrow view of the customer.
- describes the ‘average’ customer.
- knows little about each individual studied.
- uses few traditional segmentation variables.
- focuses on determining customer ‘needs’.
- is an ongoing process. Every customer contact is treated as an opportunity to gather information about the customer. It’s anything but periodic.
- engages all employees. Each person is the organization is given the responsibility to zero-in on what a customer desires when they engage with them.
- is considered a core competency of the organization. Customer Learning is viewed as an essential element of the organization’s competitive strategy that will separate it from its competitors.
- looks at the customer continually. The continuous nature of the process is able to spot changes to customer demand and put the organization in a better place to respond to it.
- looks a the customer holistically. Customer Learning looks at the customer from a broad perspective, rather than focusing on what their narrow product and service requirements might be. It looks at lifestyle for consumers, or overall strategy for businesses for example.
- seeks to understand very small groups of customers. Customer Learning focuses on small discrete groups of people as opposed to mass market segments in order to look for differences in demand rather than similarities which is the main emphasis of Market Research.
- targets knowledge on individuals rather than the ‘average’ person. The ultimate goal of Customer Learning I’d to go nose-to-nose with an individual; to know what each person—not a mass—craves and covets.
- uses many segmentation variables to obtain robust information on many unique customer groups. Customer Learning uses as many segmentation variables as it can to get closer to an individual.
- seeks to discover customer secrets and what people CRAVE.
The bottom line is that there is a role for market research, but it won’t get you a competitive advantage in your market.
Invest time and energy in building a customer learning capability in your organization and you will be handsomely rewarded.