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How familiar are you with your customers?

Yes, I know that you know your business. And maybe you’ve even done some market research. If you listen in social media, give yourself a gold star. But how well do you really know your customers.  I’ve been talking to a number of marketers from a cross-section of companies over the last few months, and I am afraid that from my vantage point, the answer is that we don’t know our customers well enough.

Oh sure, we’ve talked to them and run focus groups and looked at our Web analytics. (You have done all those things, haven’t you?) But I am talking about something deeper. I am talking about knowing what your customers actually do for a living. Knowing what they really care about. Knowing it in your bones.

Too often, when I look at the marketing departments at large companies, those organizations are filled with, er, marketers. And, don’t get me wrong–I like marketers. And marketing departments should have marketers in them (I mean, where else would they work).

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But my problem is that they shouldn’t have only marketers. I’ve done work with a bog chemical company whose marketing department had no engineers. Now, the engineers are their customers. Wouldn’t you think that it would be worth having a token engineer or two around?

And I don’t mean to single them out–even anonymously. I see it everywhere. Publishers that sell to schools with no teachers on staff. Consultants that have never done the job of the folks they are helping.

We’ve reached a point where professional credentials have become a stand-in for experience. I don’t think it is helping us. Yes, we obviously need professional marketers and we could never do what we do without them. But there is no substitute for having a former customer on your team. In the old days, we did that on sales teams because we knew it worked. But as direct marketing over digital media is more a way to sell, we need that experience on marketing teams, too.

Does your company make sure that you really know your customers? If not, why not?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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