Marketing and Customer Experience: the value of tapping into diverse sources of ‘insight’

The world is messy and we are creatures that like to fit the world into boxes.  Why?  Because one we have put the world into boxes then we feel able to orients ourselves in the world and to act upon the world.  This is particularly so in business especially in the areas of marketing and customer experience.  After all we need to know about our target markets and our customers if we are going to pull the right levers and shape the world to attain our desired outcomes.

Whilst there is nothing ‘wrong’ with that approach there are downsides associated with the way that we go about it.  Often we do not ‘push and prod’ the world at large in various ways to get a rounded picture of our customers, our target markets, the world at large.  As a result it is easy to get a one-sided, distorted, view and then we leave ourselves open to ‘failure’ because we have created an inaccurate map of the territory.  Lets, make this real by looking at the CMO – particularly what is on the mind of the CMO.

IBM’s CMO 2011 Study

In October 2011 (this year) IBM published a global CMO study and according to this report CMO are grappling with complexity with the following top ten factors being the ones that they are struggling with / concerned with the most:

  1. Data explosion
  2. Social media
  3. Growth of channels and devices
  4. Shifting consumer demographics
  5. Financial constraints
  6. Decreasing brand loyalty
  7. Growth market opportunities
  8. ROI accountability
  9. Customer collaboration and influence
  10. Privacy considerations

Convinced that you understand the world of the CMOs and what is keeping them awake at night?  Of course you are especially as the IBM report reads:

What’s hurting most?

So, what are the main sources of concern?  We probed more deeply to find out whether CMOs feel equipped to manage the impact of 13 key market factors…..”

Findings from the CMO Exchange Conference

In July 2011 the  CMO Exchange conference held in London.  If you were at this conference you might be forgiven for thinking that the following are the “Ten challenges keeping CMOs awake at night:

  1. Convincing powers that be to support an idea
  2. Getting resources and budget committed to a campaign
  3. Clarifying expectations and budget of the CMO
  4. Keeping up with changing times and tools
  5. Long term focus versus company’s short term view
  6. Proving that value was created to justify spending
  7. Leveraging digital marketing to engage target audience
  8. Convincing company to embrace new techniques
  9. Lack of understanding of marketing within the company
  10. Challenging the status-quo without losing support

So who should you and I believe?  IBM’s study or the write-up from the CMO Exchange?

The six blind men and the elephant

Have you heard of the parable of the six blind men and the elephant?  If not then it goes like this:

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”  They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

What is the Lesson?

If wish to understand an aspect of the world then tap into a variety of diverse sources.  If you are seeking to understand your customers, formulate a customer-centric strategy and/or improve the customer experience then you should consider tapping into and integrate the ‘findings’ from a variety of sources including:

  • Stepping into and walking in the shoes of the customer;
  • Observing customers interacting with your organisation;
  • Listening to your front line employees and their views;
  • What customers (and other influential people) are saying about your organisation online;
  • Customer complaints;
  • Converting call recordings into insight through speech analytics;
  • Mystery shopping;
  • Interactions through the website and web analytics;
  • Financial models including CLV (customer lifetime value);
  • Loyalty programmes;
  • Responses to marketing campaigns;
  • Market research;
  • Customer surveys etc.

Do you have to tap into each of these sources of insight? No.

Yet it is important that you tap into a variety of listening posts that collectively allow you to see the ‘elephant’ rather than simply pieces of the elephant.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

4 thoughts on “Marketing and Customer Experience: the value of tapping into diverse sources of ‘insight’”

  1. Maz, I enjoyed your story about the elephant

    It reminded me of a similar story of two men who went to see the same football match. One of them thought it was fabulous, the other thought it was awful, of course they were supporting different teams

    It is very difficult to change a perspective or point of view, I know I should do it, but it is always a struggle.



    1. Hello James
      It is the same for me and I suspect for many of us. Each of us is embedded in our own reality, our point of view, our worldview and we mistake that for ‘reality’.

      Can we break out of that? It is possible if we put in place practices that encourage even necessitate that we gather multiple viewpoints.

      Incidentally, it is my view that many organisational change and business performance improvement initiatives fail to deliver lasting improvements because we fail to take into account the needs and points of view of the many stakeholders who are involved.

      Being right and righteous is a way of being that is particularly present as you move up the ladder. It is almost as if being the expert means that you no longer learn or are willing to learn. The same goes for people in senior management positions.



  2. Hi Maz,
    Your story and tales of different sources of research reminds me of the Disraeli quote that goes: ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’. I think the thing that concerns me most is that there is too much reliance on other people to provide the different perspective and not enough energy and enthusiasm for generating their own different perspective.



    1. Hello Adrian
      I am with you which is why my preference is to walk in the customers shoes and to walk in the front line staff shoes. There really is no substitute for the experience (lived) of being the customer or being the person who interacts with the customer. It is emotion that drives action not reason – neuroscience has shown that to be true. As for research studies it is all too easy to get the results that you want especially when you are selling products and services tied to a specific point of view.



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