The Best Marketers Know More About Their Customers

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

We think we know our customers. We think we understand what motivates, drives, and excites them. We think that, thanks to all this “big data” we have at our fingertips, we can perfectly connect the dots between behavior and action.


But here’s the brutal and honest truth: we don’t really know our customers at all or not nearly as much as we should.


As marketers, it’s easy to confuse data with knowledge. We forget that a single data point about a transaction or a social profile doesn’t tell the full story about a customer. We have to dig deeper and do a better job of gleaning insights from all those ones and zeroes. Access to data simply gives us the benefit of having many points of reference to better understand who our customers are and what they truly care about. That’s why, when push comes to shove, we can’t forget that there are real, living, and breathing human beings behind each and every data point.


Now here’s the catch: based on Gartner research, only one percent – yes, a stiflingly small one percent – of companies who regularly tap into stores of social and legacy customer data actually use it to its full potential. Seems mind-boggling, right? So I suppose we need to ask ourselves, “What’s the purpose of having all this data if I am not answering the right questions?”


It’s time to close the gap. We owe it to ourselves to take the time to understand our customers in a new dimension. Not only will this allow us to engage them at a deeper level, but also, and more importantly, it will benefit our customers tenfold. Why? Because when we equip our marketing and customer care teams with useful, tangible insights, they can be more effective and efficient at building long-term relationships. It helps shift the focus away from engaging in simple (trans)actions to driving loyalty via personalized interactions.


When we truly know more about the wants, needs, and expectations of our customers – and can anticipate them in real-time – we can change the very nature of customer service and fundamentally reshape the ways in which customers view our brands and businesses.


So, it’s time to start asking the type of questions that will give us the useful and meaningful data to know more about our customers. For example, if you are a makeup retailer you should ask customers these types of questions:

  • What is the one makeup item that you can’t live without (e.g. mascara, eyeliner, lip gloss)?
  • Do you have any makeup allergies or skin sensitivities?
  • Do you ever buy makeup as a gift for family and friends?


In fact, based on a recent Harris Poll survey, two-thirds of Americans surveyed said they expect the brands they do business with to know more about them now than even a year ago while fifty-two percent agreed that they would be willing to share more information with brands if it meant receiving more a personalized experience in return.


Our customers have spoken. So why aren’t we doing anything about it?


At Lithium, we pride ourselves in being at the very heart of the social web. We intertwine data related to social activity, online behaviors, and transactions to help brands see their customers like they’ve never seen them before. In short, we help brands know more, see more, and do more. That’s the crux of our “Be 3D”promise. Are you ready to know your customers in a new dimension? We can help.



*This article originally appeared in Marketing Land 


Honored Contributor



What do you think are the largest issues holding companies back?


 Is it internal silos - marketing, sales, product, services?

Do companies have a data strategy that allows data to be shared across silos - both from a technological standpoint, and from an organizational willingness and commitment to do so?


Is it the application of arbitrary segmentation of customers - a focus on millennials, or some marketing abstract like "the go getters" vs "the trend setters",  or size focus - Enterprise, Small / Medium business and Consumer?   These traditional approaches often influence the nature of the offering and the go to market strategy, but does it really align with what the data says, and to the articles point, a deeper understanding of what truly drives customer behavior?







New Commentator

I would like to comment on Mark's question.


IMHO, the problem companies have is based on valuation of profit over valuation of humanity.


1)  Most companies are profit-driven and managed as such, so customer-focused organizations are rare.  When customers are not empowered to express their own preferences and have them be considered for decision-making within an enterprise, then customers are undervalued as stakeholders. This failure is not caused by modeling and analysis, but by the failure to trust, respect and adjust to change that is necessary when truly honoring human voice and listening to deep responses.  Customers will tell you what they really want over and over.  Are companies really willing to give it to them when it may send them into bankruptcy?


2)  I believe companies do not celebrate individual creative expression and initiative as much as they need to ("groupthink to lowest common denominator, right?"  Are all humans lazy in groups?  I think not!).  I believe we need to let people try to innovate on their own and serve customers they way they think is best rather than micro-managing time and resources.  We can all benefit from strong doses of positive imagination when looking at strategy and planning.  We could be open to working collaboratively with our competition and form a consortium instead of trying to monopolize market segments based on time, cost, and quality.  Organizations trying to research social issues struggle to understand deeply human issues which could be resolved quickly by dreaming up what we really want to have instead of trying to fix what is broken.  This applies to customers because if we simply gave every one of them the right to choose what they want up front and change whenever they wish, then we never have to guess what it is they truly want.  


I am raising funds for a social community I want to build on Lithium.  With your support and sharing I would like to keep contributing to discussions like these.  


Lithium Alumni (Retired)

Back to your thoughts Mark. I don't think technology is holding us back. It is organizationally driven. We each are capturing our 'piece of the elephant' but not working collectively on the information we have. Your point about segmentation is how enterprises get to the vertical strategy. It is easier for me to segment targeting the market by Financial Services, rather than we are looking for buyers who are "change agents and socially advanced". New data models could greatly inform these segmentation models and reveal commonalities in our customers that we didn't even know existed. (88% of a company's customers are left handed for example. THAT would be an insight!)


This is a really challenging pursuit. A problem I had with the article is it is such an easy principle and so very difficult to execute against. But I think it starts with the questions, not the answers. That's the skill I am trying to build. What are we trying to solve for? rather than Look at how much we know already! (which may be useless)