How Well Do You Know Your Customers?

For seasoned marketing professionals, knowing and understanding your customers and prospects feels more like marketing 101. Having worked with many corporations throughout the years, I’ve observed marketing and communications staff tend to have a high-level understanding of who their customers are, and some have a better understanding than others. However, not many have actually walked in their customers’ shoes and gained empathy for what customers are experiencing on a daily basis. And it is understandable because building a closeness with customers through observation and interviews (otherwise known as ethnography) can be timely and costly.

However, the value of the information you gain through this type of research is significant and can support everything from product development to more impactful marketing. Specifically, you can gain knowledge about:

  • Case studies of your products/services
  • Misuses of your product/services
  • Product and service workarounds
  • Problems faced by the customer
  • Customer passions
  • Reasons for buying your products/services
  • The environments and behaviors that influence customer behavior
  • Contradictions in customer behavior
  • Where specifically customers are having conversations about your products/services

The great news is this process of understanding your customer better through their behavior rather than what they tell you they want and need doesn’t have to require tons of time and money. There are simple ways to gain this knowledge through technology, shadowing and simply talking to peers within your own company.

Social listening

Tracking conversations about specific brands or topics online is now possible. We are literally able to observe consumer behavior and collect data using software. This speeds up the process and cost and gives brands insights into the why, where and how specific conversations are happening and what people really think. It also allows you to track changes to conversations and timely cultural updates in real time. If you want to dive more into social listening, check out my recent blog post.

Shadowing sales staff

Sitting in on sales calls over the phone or in-person can be incredibly valuable to gain insights into what questions the customer or prospect is asking, what additional information they are requesting, what concerns they have, barriers to purchasing your product/service and what information is resonating with them. Hearing directly from the customer is invaluable.

Talking with your sales staff and customer service representatives

Your sales and customer service staff is on the front-line daily talking with all different types of customers. They likely have a very good handle on what customers pain points and passions are, how the customer is using the product/service, what issues the customer is having and much more. Simply talking with your sales and customer service teams on a regular basis can provide you quick and valuable information.

Shadowing a product install or service call

Being onsite during a product install or service call can help you observe how the product is being used and what pain points customers are experiencing with the product. It gives you an opportunity to observe a customer in their own environment.

Observing customers

Depending on the industry you are in, observing customers in their own environment might be as simple as watching customers and sales staff interact in a retail setting. This could prove to be more difficult if you are in a B2B or healthcare industry. But consider how you can observe customers in their own environment. Simply watching and listening can provide valuable insights.

So often as marketers, we rush through or overlook research. We understand the value but there are so many barriers to overcome mostly time, money and the pressure to just be driving results. However, making understanding your customer’s behavior part of an ongoing routine, even if it’s simply talking to your sales or customer service staff, will prove to be invaluable, and with data at our fingertips, it’s hard to have excuses anymore.

Jennifer Manocchio


After starting her career with Edelman in Chicago, Jennifer joined Sweeney and quickly established herself as an exceptional industry innovator. In 2004, she opened Sweeney’s first full-service office outside of Cleveland and quickly rose through the ranks to become agency president. Jen leads by example and without fear. She has been critical to agency growth throughout the past decade and continues to lead the agency into the future.