According to Nonhlanhla Koza, Business Partner at Oliver South Africa, just as businesses are no longer just selling products, or differentiating on price, customers are no longer buying products or solutions; instead, they are buying experiences or expertise.

They are looking for service providers and suppliers that can pay attention to (and fix) the pain points experienced in their business or personal lives. This means that it is important not only for sales teams to get to know customers and prospects carefully, but marketing will need to do the same, as will product development and customer service teams. This is easier said than done and is evidenced by the massive disconnect between various business functions, particularly sales and marketing.  

Closing this gap has become critical, especially as budgets and timelines become tighter under pandemic-induced lockdown conditions. The only adhesive strong enough to bridge these gaps is innovation. As clichéd as it sounds, there is an opportunity for innovation in customer behaviour data. Unlocking it successfully depends on using data to understand everything there is to know about how and why customers use products and services the way they do. Instead of businesses falling into the trap of developing the products they think customers want, it is far smarter to let development be led by what customers would actually use and then letting that intelligence filter through the entire value chain of the company’s offering.

There are many ways to assess the impact of a marketing strategy on customer satisfaction levels but using bottom-line numbers as the ultimate indicator no longer cuts it. Likened to the canary in the coalmine, it is usually too late by the time customer performance has tanked – but how do we keep that canary alive? It starts with aligning sales, marketing and every other facet of the business to the customer experience by getting to know customers exceptionally well through analytics and insights.

Business is about people, not products

Whether it is coming up with a new product, finding a new marketing angle for current services, or devising a way to make a tangible difference in a customer’s working or personal life, efforts will always be hit-or-miss without the insight as to what motivates a customer to make a particular decision. Development teams can make products that customers want to use, and wherever it is possible to add value and enhance that experience is where marketers should be.

Businesses can innovate, ahead of people’s expectations, by actually understanding and resonating with what their customers do. As such, marketing requires a deep understanding of why people believe they need a certain product and then giving them a reason to stick with that product, which means doing things differently.

Thinking differently about the customer

With the Coronavirus lockdown, everything has shifted to the online business space and more people are researching and shopping online. In this digital-first world, user-generated content is going to become a strong indicator of customer sentiment toward a product or service. As such, this will be a powerful tool in the marketer’s arsenal.

Combined with customer data and insights, user-generated content will give marketers exactly what they need to give their marketing plans the human touch. In fact, user-generated content is exactly what is going to help businesses achieve precision marketing, where customers validate marketing claims about a product or service.

Turning insights into actions

In order to properly leverage customer behaviour data and user-generated content, organisations must have the appropriate modelling tool to be able to pick up on trends relevant to their business. Here, the performance of every business function is going to depend on its responsiveness to this data. Precision marketing relies heavily on data about customer behaviour, and by making use of such data, marketers can get a true understanding of their customers, instead of operating based on assumptions.

Even more important is the customer behaviour data that is used to understand how the customer uses a product or service, as this gives marketers the unique insight they need to see what differentiates a product or a service, in such a way that it is simple to attract new customers and keep existing ones happy.