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It may seem obvious, but the most important component of building any marketing strategy is developing a deep understanding of your customer. If you don’t have a genuine understanding of who they are, what their personal and business needs are, it’s going to be difficult to design a product or service that solves their problems and makes their lives a little better. Many (if not most) clients we deal with have a very slim understanding of their customer. Maybe they knew who they were once upon a time or maybe they just took a guess at what their customers needed when they designed their product or service and this approach will get you only so far. Even if you had a good understanding of their needs five years ago, that may not translate into having an understanding of their needs today. Different economic conditions, different technological advancements, different legislation – all of these things play a massive role in changing customer needs. Having a social media strategy without understanding your customer is, at best, probably a waste of time. At worst, it may damage your business.

So the first step in designing a marketing strategy is to perform some deep customer research. We like to get out and talk to as many of our client’s customers and prospects as possible during the research phase of designing a strategy. This always pays huge dividends. Even when our client is doing a pretty good job meeting their customer’s needs, we always find ways that it could be done even better, leading to new revenue, higher margins and competitive differentiation. If you’re offerings haven’t improved in the last 12 months, you are opening up yourself to being out-innovated by your competition. You don’t want to end up like the telecom companies were when Apple launched the iPhone – totally caught with their pants down. If one of your competitors out-innovates you, you’ll then need to spend the next 6 – 12 months playing catch-up and that’s never a good postion to be in.

Having a CRM strategy that is focused on solving customer needs is critical. The below infographic covers some of the ways you can use a CRM to make sure your team is staying on top of solving your customers problems. We are particularly interested in how our clients can use Big Data to find new problems to solve. One of our clients, Wardy IT Solutions, are specialists in combing through databases to find compelling new insights.¬†According to Gartner, 42% of IT leaders have already invested in big data technology or plan to do so in the next 12 months. However this activity tends to happen only in the largest organisations. Smaller businesses struggle to take advantage of big data strategies – but it doesn’t need to be this way. With the advent of hosted analytic tools, we can source relevant data sets, throw them into an analytics engine, and start to look for problems your customers have that even they don’t realise they have yet. Imagine the competitive advantage you have as a business when you can help your customers solve problems they aren’t even thinking about yet.