I remember this quote being used by my marketing tutor at College as a clear example of how NOT to do marketing successfully. The story goes that Henry Ford wanted all his Model T cars to be black so as not to reduce efficiency. Spraying different colours would have required a break in the production line, increased costs, more staff and more equipment. Whether the customer wanted a black car or not was, for Henry Ford, immaterial.
So, was Ford right to prioritize increased efficiency over the customer? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. Ford’s main objective was to bring the car to new markets through low prices, something which he did achieve. Though he has gone down in history as an example of a ‘production orientated’ manager, a term which sparks fear into the hearts of any marketeer. Incidentally the Ford company eventually did introduce different colours in order to provide variety and compete with other car companies who were gaining market share. Think of that what you will …
While the notion of tailoring a product to meet the needs of your audience may seem so obvious, many companies conduct business the other way around. They have a lack of understanding of who exactly their customers are and – most importantly – what they want. They believe their product will sell regardless. And while there may be some doubt that Henry Ford ever actually said this quote, the mantra still rings true – products and the marketing tactics behind them should adapt to fit the target market, not the other way around. And that’s where customer insights come in.
So, what exactly are customer insights?
Well, put simply insights are information which you gather about your customers. This can include everything from basic demographics (age, gender, location etc) to hobbies, media consumption and even social values. Insights prove (or possibly even disprove) any assumptions you might have. For example, you might think that the majority of your audience are female, under 25 and use Instagram as their main social media platform but have you ever actually checked? You might find you are completely wrong and consequently not allowing your business to fulfil its potential. Insights allow you to tailor your products and marketing tactics to precisely meet the needs of your target audience, provide an improved customer experience and gain that crucial competitive edge.
Where to start?
We live in a world of ‘big data’ where vast amounts of information are readily available to us. Therefore, the list of insights you can gather is practically endless and can be analysed to the nth degree. With all this information at your fingertips it can be easy to get overwhelmed. So instead pick several key insights which you feel are most relevant to your business and focus solely on those. If you are on social media, Facebook Business Manager is a good place to start. Once you are comfortable with these you can expand your data gathering to gain an even deeper understanding of your audience. For the best overall picture, try and gather information across all your online platforms.
Consistency, consistency, consistency
Consistency is the key to great marketing and insights are no exception. Get into the habit of gathering and analysing insights on a regular basis such as every month. Only then will you start to build up an accurate picture of who your audience are and their patterns of behaviour.
And finally …
Remember that insights are only beneficial if you actually do something with the information you gather. In other words you need to directly act on your findings and use them to inform future marketing decisions. In doing this, customer insights can become an invaluable tool in helping to shape the future direction and success of your business.