It’s not often I read an article and stand up and cheer. Well, a recent Advertising Age interview had me doing just that. And, yes, I did get some funny looks from those around me.
Who had me doing the Tiger Woods I-just-made-another-eagle-putt fist pump? Avinash Kaushik. (The title of the Mya Frasier’s AdAge article is: “Google’s ‘Anayltics Evangelist’ Explains Why Websites ‘Suck’ — Kaushik: Despite Mounds of Data, Marketers Don’t Understand Consumers.”)
Why did this interview get me so fired-up? Because Avinash hit the hot button with the fact that, even with all the data available today, most marketing efforts still fail because advertisers don’t truly understand their customers.
Here’s an excerpt:
Avinash Kaushik thinks one of the reasons why so many websites “suck” today is because of the hippo — as in the “highest paid person’s opinion.”
And, yes, you’re likely a hippo — a successful advertising executive, CMO or brand manager, pulling in a six-figure income, often found pontificating about what does and doesn’t work online. You use tried-and-true metrics such as unique visitors and click-through rates to decide on the best design for your landing page or what content is best suited on your product site.
Yet, despite your mounds of data, Mr. Kaushik thinks you are the “least closest to the customer.”
Now, I work with these “hippos” all the time, and they’re some of the smartest people in the room. I have tremendous respect for them. The CMOs and other top executives I work with are master strategists. But like so many of us, they rely on the customer data that is collected to give them the insight into who their customers really are, and what those customers really want. That’s why not having regular, direct customer contact IS a problem. You’re forced to rely heavily on the data coming in from other sources.
And often, that data is compiled, sifted, sorted, filtered, and presented in a manner in which the original customer intent, words and emotions are missing from the final “customer data report.”
You may get insight into WHAT happened, but what’s usually missing is WHY it happened — which was exactly Avinash’s point.
What can you do to learn “why” your customers did something? Avinash suggests the two products he evangelizes:
• Use Google’s analytics tools, including Google Analytics and Ad Optimizer.
• Add a short, free 4Q online survey (from iPerceptions) to your site.
I still think nothing beats getting face-to-face interaction with your customers. Everyone on your ad team — from the CMO to the copywriters to the web designers — should have regular, direct communication with customers. Now, I hear some of you saying, “That’s impossible. We can’t take the time to send all our people out to interact with customers.”
OK. Here’s another idea: Bring customers to your marketing team.
I saw a presentation at the M2W Marketing to Women conference by a company called Snippies. They have “video journalists” who interview people in different market segments. What I love so much about this approach is, you get to hear from real people, in real environments (not focus groups), in their own words. It’s amazing what you can learn about people by hearing it in their own, unfiltered words. This documentary-style format is very engaging; the impact and insight from these videos is way more powerful than simply getting a report with a bunch of spreadsheets and data.
I also love this approach because it helps smash stereotypes. When you see real people, it helps you get past stereotypical views and gain understanding. The further away you are from your target market, the harder you’re going to have to work to get past customer stereotypes to gain that understanding not only of what people do, but why.
Don’t be the one who’s “least closest” to your customers. Take the initiative to gain that greater understanding. It will keep you from wasting money on ineffective advertising and help you create messages that persuade people to take the actions you want them to take.
About the Author: Holly Buchanan is a Persuasion Architect with FutureNow. Each day, she helps clients use personas to smash stereotypes about their customers. She is also co-author of a new book, The Soccer Mom Myth: Today’s Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys. If you’d like to meet Holly, join her on June 2nd for FutureNow’s Persuasive Online Copywriting seminar in Manhattan. Not only will you learn techniques for speaking to customers in their own language, you’ll get a chance to chat over hors d’oeurves and cocktails at our “Happy Hour with the Experts” reception.