Have you ever heard about how the Walkman came to be? It’s an interesting story – during the 1980’s it became really popular for people to walk around with boom boxes on their shoulders, playing music. Many of the key players in the industry made assumptions about what this meant customers wanted, and thought about making a boom box with an arch in it to better fit on people’s shoulders. But Sony had a different idea. The company got close to the customer by hitting the streets and discovered that they didn’t want arched boom boxes at all, what people wanted was to simply listen to music while they were walking. As a result, the Walkman was born.
The point of this story is that you can’t make assumptions about what customers want – you must get close to them. I recently wrote about the tangible value of customer advocacy and I’d like to expand on a point I made there, that people are not numbers. Generally, companies have a data management style that looks at all this information as aggregate. For instance, they can see that 5,000 users in a certain geography like a certain product, but what does this really mean? What is this telling us? Are there upsell opportunities? Would the customer buy that product again?
There’s no way to tell without a deep understanding of the customer – going beyond the numbers. Numbers suggest that people make decisions based on logic when, in fact, quite the opposite is true. When we want something, we choose with our hearts, not our heads. This type of thinking is typically not built into marketing strategies because only logical aspects like age, gender, etc. are measured. However, it’s the intangible that drives people’s desires – and it’s the intangible that is also really difficult to measure. As a result, it’s often ignored.
Yet, as in the Walkman example, the key to customer success is not just figuring out what they’re doing, it’s figuring out why they’re doing it. Really, customers are the asset of every business – customers fuel growth, profit, and brand advocacy to name a few. To engage on an emotional level, we need to look beneath aggregate data and start to understand the “why”. Only then will we come close to actually understanding our customer and deliver real breakthrough results.
by Karen Lim