Don’t let data cloud your customer view

Our Head of Insight, Rachael Crowe, recently spoke to Content Marketing Association (CMA) delegates about the importance of customer insight in setting robust content strategies and not getting side-tracked by structured data along the way. 

Image of girl with headphones

Do you know who I am? Google certainly doesn’t. For starters, ‘it’ thinks I am a man. Big on American football, cars and – perhaps most bizarrely – corner shops. I have no idea what I have been searching to generate this intriguing profile but I pity the brands that have me in their ‘ideal customer’ sights. And this probably explains a lot of the bizarre content I get served to me in ‘online search’ mode, on a regular basis. 

Similarly, take Campaign Magazine’s analogy of the two princes. Mr. Ozzy Osbourne (Prince of Darkness) and His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales. They’re in the same age bracket, have the same marital status, share a love of dogs and top notch cars. But that’s about where the similarities end. You wouldn’t cover them off in the same persona or attempt to serve them up the same content and expect it to resonate. But if you were relying on traditional demographic segmentation data – you might.

In theory digital marketing makes it easier than ever before to give people what they care about. Or so you’d think.

After all, you can find out who someone works for, how they found you and what they’re interested in without so much as a form being filled out. There is more data available than ever before. But, in the words of digital marketing guru, Brian Solis, “mo’ data, mo’ problems” and some of these problems are evidently stemming from an over reliance on data without meaningful interpretation.

The Content Marketing Institute’s ‘Benchmark, Budgeting & Trends’ 2019 report revealed that while:

  • 3 out of 4 seek feedback from sales and web analytics


  • 65% use keyword research

…less than half (42%) of content marketers are actually talking to their customers.

This is dangerous because, while data is a compass, what it doesn’t deliver is context.

There’s a reason behind using quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in testing a ‘hypothesis’ (assumption). The quant gives you the WHAT but it’s the QUAL that gives you the WHY.

And the WHY is what’s missing when brands rely on structured data served up in isolation.

Structured data is the numbers generated by search engines and social media algorithms. Web analytics, keyword volumes, adwords and demographics for paid social targeting. All very useful for spotting general trends but not robust enough for setting successful content strategies. This ‘machine learning’ needs to be balanced by actual, observed, human behaviours. In other words, unstructured data. What language do our customers use? Why are we consistently losing them at a particular point? What will help them push a product/service internally within the organisation?

Overlooking this invaluable insight could be why so many brands say they are stuck in a content rut – churning out the same old stuff, with little to no stickability. Spending a lot of time, resource and – not to mention budget – on brand content dressed up as thought leadership. Because – if truth be told – they’re focusing on what they want to talk about, rather than what the customer wants to hear about. There is usually a big difference. The only way that you can truly know your customers wants (and perhaps even establish their unconscious needs) is to let them be heard. 

So while we all know we should be putting the customer front and centre in everything we do, how many of us are actually living up to that promise?

Research by Econsultancy reveals that 91% of brands recognise the importance of putting the customer first but 51% still struggle to put this into practice. 

Is the fact that so few brands are actually successfully delivering on this down to us getting carried away on this wave of what’s possible and not focusing on what’s actually most insightful: the voice of the customer. 

And, crucially, if that’s the case, then perhaps we don’t know our customers as well as what we think we do.

Interested to learn how our research, insights and innovation arm could help you hone your customer view?

Get in touch with our Head of Insights:

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If you have a project you would like to discuss, get in touch.