We marketers love our data. What surprises me is the percentage of us ignoring one of the most valuable data sources we have available to us — our customers. Too often, we mistake our site visitors for our customers. While site behavior is important, it’s not all our customers have to tell us.
The rise of Customer Analytics comes out of a need for more information. Marketers need more than site behavior and conversions to steer them in the right direction. As is the case with most analytics evolutions, the tools have finally caught up with our needs and from it came a customer data resurgence.
What Is Customer Analytics?
“Customer Analytics is a process by which data from customer behavior is used to help make key business decisions.” (via Wikipedia)
I bet you’re thinking, That doesn’t sound that new. Well you’re right — it isn’t. Most of your customer analytics sources have been around forever, but I’d wager a hefty bet you aren’t accessing them often or as effectively as you could be. So, let’s look at some of the most popular customer analytics sources, and talk about how they can be used.
#1: Customer Service Team
We’ve all been there. Something seems off on the site. The numbers aren’t adding up. Where do you run? To the customer service team! They are the pulse of our customers and yet we rarely visit them proactively. Unfortunately, they are most often leveraged when things are going poorly. It’s a sad truth.
Instead, we should be accessing our customer service software (Zendesk, HelpScout, etc.) and seeing what they see. What are customers asking for? What are they stumbling over? There are few better ways to best identify opportunities for website testing. Often, the customer service team is told when words are confusing, or our site structure doesn’t make sense. They are the ones that hear it when your pricing page leaves more questions than answers, and when your blog categories confuse more than help.
So, set up a bi-monthly meeting with the customer service team, read their weekly summaries carefully, and visit them often. We should be tapping into this customer data often and using it to steer our marketing tests.
#2: Customer Advisory Boards
A CAB (customer advisory board) is a group of current or past customers that you poll, question, and get feedback from often. We marketers think this is reserved for product teams, and we are dead wrong. We should either be initiating one of our own, or leveraging an existing CAB for insights into how to position and brand our companies and campaigns.
Are you thinking about shifting your product descriptions or changing up your funnel? Guess who would be great to share that with and get feedback from? Your CAB. These people know your brand by now, and they have an affinity to help you. They can give you a perspective that is hard to have when you are the in-house marketer.
Whether you fly them in once a quarter, jump on a call once a month or send them ad hoc emails, you should be informally floating your new marketing moves by them often. The feedback is essential.
#3: Customer Profiles
This one gets a little tricky, but is so important. Marketers understand the value of a registered member community and customer profiles. Collecting data on our users is a huge advantage over those sites that run primarily on anonymous users. With that said, too often we fail to leverage that data for persona building, customer insights, and marketing campaigns.
Our customer profiles should include the basic information we need to run our business, i.e. billing information, general bio information, etc., but what else could you be asking? What if you asked them what they want to read or learn about? What if you asked them what their favorite product was? What else could you be asking that could help you tailor content and services toward them?
Our customer profiles shouldn’t be viewed as a database of sterile information used only for getting things from them. We should insert questions that help us serve our customer better. Every campaign we run as marketers can be personalized to a customer cohort based on profile information, making the campaign more valuable to them. Isn’t that a great little combination?
#4: Product Feedback Tab
Right now, you have a tab on your site for feedback. Chances are good that feedback is getting shuffled to a product alias where they are collecting feature requests and product complaints. You know what else they are capturing? A wealth of marketing data, that’s what.
Customers love to give opinions. Not all of them of course, but the ones that do give all sorts of opinions. They give ideas on product names, on page titles, on feature descriptions. They give enough ideas to create dozens of marketing campaigns, but they are often lost in that alias, never to be read again.
Buddy up with your product team. Find out what the login is to the feedback software they use, and jump in there often. Keeping a pulse on customer feedback and product requests often leads to new and exciting ways to proactively meet the customers’ needs on the marketing side of things.
#5: Customer Surveys
We are all pretty well versed in this one. We’ve all (hopefully) run dozens of customer surveys, but you know what the problem is? We often are asking questions reactively. We run a survey once or twice a year and only after we realize we don’t have enough information on something to run a campaign. Isn’t it strange that we only ask our customers what they want to see when we realize we don’t know?
Instead, run customer surveys on a regular basis. Ask questions of all kinds. Don’t just ask them what topics they might want to read on the blog, ask them what would help them understand your product, ask them what they’d like you to build into the community, ask them what they love about your brand, and how they describe you to colleagues. Ask them all these things.
Too many marketers are worried about over-surveying, when the reality is we are nowhere near the saturation point. If you sample out your responding audience correctly, and make the questions relevant to their needs, they are often more than willing to hand over this rich information.
If We Don’t Use This Data, Who Will?
I get asked often if this sort of data mining is really a marketer’s job. I usually respond by saying, “If we don’t use this data, who will?” Today’s marketer needs to redirect more of their time to the customer. We’ve been playing in web analytics software and in aggregate user counts for too long. The future of marketing is rooted in personalization and answering the need of the individual customer. Learning to use the many sources of customer analytics at your fingertips is a great start.
Did I miss your favorite customer analytics source? Leave it in the comments below for others to read!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.