Marketing departments across industries have a certain drive to try and reach customers. This drive forces them to “put themselves in the customers’ shoes.” However, all too often, instead of successfully separating customers from the pack, i.e. seeing a person as an individual, large businesses become too focused on the dynamics of marketing. They become lost as they analyze the daily numbers; pouncing on what seems to be the current successful trend, while simultaneously becoming a disjointed team between those with blinders and those without. They lose focus, and don’t understand the customer.
Words Of Wisdom To Guide Marketing Ventures
It is time to take off the marketing blinders when you find yourself unintentionally foregoing the customer’s best interests in favor of kowtowing to the latest marketing reports. In a now viral letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos Founder and CEO of Amazon, wrote:
There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.
Why? There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.
Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight. A customer-obsessed culture best creates the conditions where all of that can happen.
The moment that we deviate from this customer-centric approach is the instance that we first put on marketing blinders. Arguably, it is also the same instance that we move beyond the concept of Day 1. By remaining in a Day 1 mentality we can constantly strive to meet the needs (both those spoken and those left unsaid) of customers.
Think back to the moment when you first launched your company … back to Day 1. What were you feeling? Who knew about your company? Did you know your customers on a personal and individual basis? These types of questions show the intimacy that is the basis of a well-founded customer-centric approach. Whether intentional or not, moving away from this intimacy is another prime example of accidentally donning marketing blinders.
Removing The Marketing Blinders: Understand the Customer
Blinders take many different shapes and sizes. They could be the set “processes” that your marketing team begins to follow in an attempt to achieve the same results time and time again. They might be replacing actual customers with customer surveys and market research. No matter the case, marketing blinders are particularly dangerous to any company that is inventing and designing products based on the current and predicted needs of its customers.
To once again quote Jeff Bezos, “good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design. I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.”
Removing the marketing blinders will require you to take a step back so that once more you can see your customers as the individual voices that they represent, not the masses that you are trying to placate with attempts at one-size-fits-all packaging, products, or services.
- Reconnect. — You and your team will need to reconnect with three key components: your customers, your brand, and your teammates. When you are wearing blinders it is easy to lose site of the interconnected triangle that is made from these three components. Without any member, you are left with a V, rather than the connected shape that once created a solid foundation for your company.
- Stop Looking Solely At The Numbers. — Marketing data is important; however, it isn’t everything. If people wanted to be viewed as the equivalent to binary code, then they would be completely satisfied with automated call centers and a lack of human touch. This simply isn’t the case. Remember Jeff Bezos’s words, “A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.” Stop looking at just your tactics and your metrics, and seek to understand the customer enough to apply those tactics in a way that fits their needs.
- Agree To Disagree. — You might have donned a pair of marketing blinders when you bullheadedly tried to convince your fellow teammates of a certain strategy. Conversely, you might have been the roadblock to a new concept, pitch, or idea. Instead of slowing down progress that could benefit your customers, choose to instead remove the blinders by at times agreeing to disagree. Establishing an environment of commitment can help you to remove the blinders that are keeping you and your team from making the service or product innovations that your customers desire. In other words, instead of letting your opinion rule the day, rely on the expertise of your teammates, so that they can confidently leverage their skill sets to the benefit of your customers.
Removing marketing blinders is a task that will require you to take a step backwards, while simultaneously looking inwards. To understand the customer you must recognize that their needs come first and that we truly live in a world that is customer-centric bordering on customer-obsessive. When you once again find yourself in the mindset of Day 1, i.e. walking a mile in each of your customer’s shoes, then you will have rediscovered what it means to be without the hindrance of marketing blinders.