A Wedding's Lessons on Customer Insight

Customer insight models are dated. They should focus more on events in customers' lives, and less on "needs-based segmentations."

Enjoying the emotions of my second son's wedding was the highlight of our family's year. After the drama of the ceremony (including the comedy of a fire alarm that wouldn't give up), we enjoyed great food at the reception, moving speeches and then the joys of drink and dancing into the wee small hours. Everyone agreed it was a great day with brilliant weather.

Reflecting on this time afterward reminded me of the importance of such events in all our lives, including the lives of our customers. Whether it is getting married, the birth of your children, moving home or even (as I've had the joy of experiencing) the arrival of your first grandchild, such milestones affect us all.

Does our marketing or customer insight work always reflect this? Do you target your marketing on the basis of important and appropriate trigger events in your customers' lives?

Common practice can be to assume that the gold standard of targeted direct or digital marketing is to use logistic regression propensity models and perhaps optimization across multiple models to determine next best action. However, think for a moment about your own life. Do you feel that you walk around with a more or less permanent level of propensity to buy something? Apart from perhaps coffee, chocolate or alcohol, I suspect not.

In our lives, is it really more about "events, dear boy, events," as former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan quipped? Different experiences and special occasions help us to mark out the progress of our lives and trigger us to reflect on other needs and aspirations. These can be as mundane as the annual renewal cycle for home insurance or as momentous as the birth of our second child, for considering life insurance or the need for a new home. Those who an predict the timing of a trigger event will outperform those who target using any propensity model.

How long ago did you reflect on the right timing to talk with your customers? Does your customer segmentation capture the key life events that shape their thinking about new needs, where your products and services could help them?

It is perhaps also time to acknowledge that the whole concept of an apparently permanent "needs-based segmentation" is looking dated. Customers rarely have such semi-permanent needs, at least not ones that they are aware of or will consider at every point in time.

Perhaps it's more helpful to think about the "jobs they want to get done" when the right triggers arise in their lives. Segmenting based on the jobs your products and services can help your customers to "get done easily" can be very powerful. Even more so if you can combine that behavioral analysis to predict the trigger events or actions that prompt such a job requirement.

Have you experienced this shift to thinking more about timing in your analysis and marketing targeting?

Paul Laughlin

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Paul Laughlin

Paul Laughlin is the founder of Laughlin Consultancy, which helps companies generate sustainable value from their customer insight. This includes growing their bottom line, improving customer retention and demonstrating to regulators that they treat customers fairly.


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