Market orientation: thinking like your customers
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Aggregating segments, demographic and psycho-graphic mapping, getting your CX right (customer experience to you and me) – there are many ways to describe something that’s not new but is very clear – the value of knowing, understanding and targeting customers. But why is it so important to know your customers? Because when you know them, I mean really know them, then you may have a fighting chance of being able to think like them. And thinking like your customers is just about the most basic, most often forgotten but probably most important rule of marketing.
It’s usually mistaken for targeting or segmentation, which are essentially tactics derived from it, but generally and more accurately most marketers know of it as market orientation – making that conscious effort to think and see the world as your customers see it. Why is it so important? Because good marketers can use this approach to work out how to link what they do with what their clients want much more effectively.
Start by asking yourself how your product solves or mitigates your customers’ problems, reduces negative emotions or undesired costs, gives them the social profile they desire or just makes their lives that bit more enjoyable. And then talk to them. Don’t be a pain, but don’t be a stranger either. Because the better informed you are of what they need and care about, the more quickly you can find out what is good in what you do and how you can be more valuable to them – because you will be able to think like them.
Amazon is just about the best example we can think of for this. From its vision statement that challenges it ’to become Earth’s most customer-centric company’ (a challenge it seems to be meeting if coming top of the UK Customer Satisfaction Index 2018 for the fifth year in a row is any indication) to its use of technology and product curation, personalising our shopping experience, to innovations like the Kindle, Amazon leaves no stone unturned in its quest to bring value, meaning and understanding to its customer relationships. And of course, having Jeff Bezos as a CEO who is known for being customer-obsessed helps. The empty chair story is a great example. During board meetings, Bezos would leave a chair empty in the room, asking executives to assume that it belonged to the most critical and crucial member of the company – the customer.
But let’s bring this back from the big world of Amazon, to the story of three-year-old Lily Robinson and the tiger. Sainsbury’s customer Lily was confused by one of Sainsbury’s products called ‘tiger bread’, so she wrote a letter to their customer service department. The letter suggested that the bread didn’t resemble a tiger at all, but in fact looked more like a giraffe.
In response, this is what the Customer Support Manager said: ‘It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a loooong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly. And Lily, we now think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it?’
The store then changed the name of the bread for a week and put signs around their stores that gave a humorous nod to Lily’s original idea, at the same time learning a little bit more about their customers, making a little girl very happy and getting some very positive local publicity along the way.
Now that is market orientation.