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Why Data On Customer Behavior Isn’t Enough

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Today marketers have access to more data than ever. From past purchase behavior to web consumption patterns to social media actions—we are facing an explosion of information. Harnessing this data promises increased marketing efficiency and ROI. But the overwhelming volume of information makes it difficult to know what is important versus what is just noise. In fact, Gartner’s hype cycle puts “big data” near the apex of inflated expectations when it comes to digital marketing.

While monitoring data is important, even essential, to a company’s success, marketers also need to balance data analytics with an equally important aspect—actively listening to customers and their needs. Marketers in today’s increasingly cluttered marketplace need to go beyond traditional demographic segmentation to understand what motivates customers to take action. Yet, only a third of C-Suite executives feel CMOs are doing the important job of listening to and understanding customers, according to a recent Ernst & Young study.

What’s the difference between monitoring data and actively listening to customers? While monitoring includes analyzing digital information to determine marketing performance and clues on patterns, responses, and trends that may have worked in the past, actively listening involves looking at the deeper context and tone of what your customers are saying, and even asking them yourself. Listening attempts to uncover actionable information about your customers’ values and needs, and what they prioritize in life, to more effectively reach them in the future.

Looked at another way, actively listening can provide greater insight into ‘why’ your customers are motivated to take action. In addition to knowing how many people clicked on a banner ad, how many visitors you had on your web site last month, and which social posts were most effective, actively listening for clues can provide insights into why your customers are looking for you and why certain messages resonate over others in the first place.

In assessing top customers values, or this ‘why’, marketers can gain forward, rather than backward-looking, insights. For example, you can look at past data and see Millennials were interested in YOLO, Snapchat, or tiny houses and invest more in brand-building connected to those. Or you can look at the broader personality trait (Do they seek out new experiences? De-emphasize material possessions? Live for each moment with little regard for the future?) to gain meaning from the trends and help predict future actions.

The secret to driving true ROI lies in understanding this ‘why’ and what your customers value most. Backed by decades of psychological research from Shalom Schwartz, our values, and the way we prioritize them speaks to the heart of our identity: where we work, what we buy, what we say. We leave traces of them on social media, in online reviews, in comments. Companies that have an understanding of their top customers’ values can more effectively communicate with them through their key motivators.

Do your customers have a passion for exploring life? Strive primarily to protect their families? Want to hear from people similar to them to make important decisions? Marketers that understand the answers to these and similar questions can more effectively segment and tailor strategies that resonate with their customers.

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