Many companies go on and on about getting close to their customers. They think that by repeating such a mantra they will better understand their needs. However, when you start to experience the offering you wonder who in fact they were getting close to – themselves?

The main reason I believe that many get it wrong is that, whilst they may be listening, they are not truly hearing. In many cases they are attempting to validate their short term business objectives and strategies. Uncovering insight is not framed in a strategic way nor does it create a true feedback loop.

The most effective feedback loop is, of course, the virtuous circle. And the virtuous circle I have seen work the best is between target market insight and a brand’s competitive advantage.

Organisations that are really clear on their target market – who they best serve at a really detailed granular level – are able to uncover real insights. These insights then drive the continued development and refinement of their offering – in particular their competitive advantage.

And, the more precise and clear they are on their competitive advantage, then the more attractive they are to their target market… and so the virtuous circle.

A virtuous circle can, however, fast turn into a vicious cycle.

Not being able to properly listen and uncover insights can lead you to develop offerings that, at best, are not attractive and, at worse, alienating. Research alone can be a truly flawed way to gain insight. Insight and feedback need to be hard wired into your organisation in ways that become how you do business every day.

Steve Jobs when asked how much research they undertook to develop the iPad answered zero. The way Apple understands their market and develops products is based on a deep understanding and insight. In fact it’s their passion.

Locally Boost Juice are great at this too – their whole brand system is geared around a fresh, fun experience ensuring they are able to interact and innovate with their target customers – this builds true competitive advantage.

So are you caught in a virtuous circle or a vicious cycle?

 

James Atkins
BY James Atkins ON 4 May 2012
James Atkins is a director of Vantage, a boutique consultancy dedicated to helping people find strategic and marketing clarity in their business.