Tim Youngman - Understanding your customers is key to gaining a competitive edge

Tim Youngman

Tim Youngman - Credit: Archant

A piece of research I read this week once again did what it was supposed to and challenged my thinking about how much I really know about our customers.

The research was a survey of 1,000 consumers and 350 marketers. It looked at what marketers think consumers do and think and then the reality of their actual behaviour.

For example, when asked for what was the preferred channel of communication for customer service was, the sample of marketers thought that 8pc of people would want to use Facebook and 7pc Twitter. When they asked the consumer sample, the reality was only 2pc would use Facebook and a mere 1pc Twitter. The traditional channel of email was vastly under rated by marketers with 17pc thinking people would want to use it versus 32pc of actual consumers who said they preferred it.

A similar disconnect was highlighted when both sets were asked about which devices were used to access the internet. The marketers thought that 18pc of consumers would use a tablet and 23pc a mobile. Again the reality of consumers was of the 1,000 only 6pc used a tablet and 9pc a mobile.

I was not really surprised by the results, because as a profession we are regularly at fault for jumping on whatever the current bandwagon is. In our defence, this is normally driven by the continuing pressure to innovate and be thought leaders. Likewise, if you walk round a marketing conference, delegates are usually dripping in new shiny tech toys compared with the people they then go to try to market to.


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Most of us who work in a business that sells products or services will know our own products exceptionally well. We know our own industries well and our competitors and their products. However when it comes to our own customers there can be a difference between what we think their behaviour, views, and needs are, and what the reality actually is.

This highlights a very simple reminder - understanding your customers, their wants and needs and how you can help them achieve them will help differentiate you from your competitors. Research, in what ever form you choose to use, from studies to simple chats over cups of tea, is always worth the investment.

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Tim Youngman is Director of Marketing for Archant

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