Do your staff really think like your customers?

Do your staff really think like your customers?

So I read in Marketing Week that Reebok “believes the best way to understand customers is to employ people just like them.” This means that they can be less reliant on data to understand their customersA lot of us live the brand ourselves so there isn’t as much guessing as there would be if we were in an industry that was more heavily reliant on data.” saidEleanor Carter-Silk Reebok’s Head of Sports Marketing.

One side of me completely agrees with Carter-Silk on this. Many marketing departments seem to be over reliant on data to understand their consumers, forgetting that data tells them howconsumers behave (and even then only of it is really good data), it does not tell them whyconsumers behave in that way. If you want to affect behaviour (increase liking, preference, loyalty and advocacy) then you really need to understand the ‘why’ not just the ‘how’.

However, your staff are not your customers. They may use your products, they may love your products, but the very fact that they work with the product day in day out, that they think about it every day, that they understand it as well as they do, distances them from your customers. Their knowledge of your product range, positioning, technology, etc. and of your competitors, means that they view your products in a different light from all but the most dedicated (and nerdy) of your customers.

To be fair to Carter-Silk she does say that they listen to consumers by email, in person at events and in focus groups. If you really want to understand your customers there is no substitute for good quality qualitative research. Understanding the consumers’ emotional involvement with your category, with your brand and your products, recognising the emotional journey that they experience with your products removes nearly all of the guessing that Carter-Silk quite rightly refers to when interpreting and understanding your data.