The most expensive marketing mistake you can make is to do what you’ve always done with your marketing and not ask your customers what they think, want or need from you. Do you know if they are satisfied with your organisation, do you know how you can improve your delivery of services and do you understand what they really want and need from you?

In business, these questions aren’t always easy to ask, however, they are essential if you are to speak to your customers in a language they understand and communicate with them and deliver the services they really need. This is what effective marketing is all about, and organisations, even more so than ever, need to clearly communicate to their audience; you can’t be effective if you don’t fully understand your market.

So what’s the answer?

The search for the ultimate insight that will clarify your customers’ needs and desires is the name of the game for every organisation. And here are seven essential ways you can get the insights you need to take your organisation’s marketing from great to amazing:

  1. Commission annual surveys
    The best formal way of gaining insights is to ask your current, past and even prospective customers for feedback. Use your survey to reinforce your service, your existence and your commitment to excellence. When writing the survey make sure you provide a real opportunity for your participants to talk about what they need, desire and find difficult, rather than spending a lot of time asking what you could do differently – this is a subtle yet powerfully different approach.
  2. Derive a Net Promoter Score
    This is the score derived from your survey, from asking your customers on a scale from 0 – 10 the likelihood of recommending your organisation to a friend. It provides a number that you can then measure year after year.
  3. Conduct one-on-one interviews or focus groups
    You’ll only get so much from surveys, so to go deeper, ask an independent trusted person to conduct interviews with your customers or focus groups on your behalf. You’ll get right down into the detail and be able to crosscheck any hypotheses you have.
  4. Analyse the market
    It’s vital that you read about your industry, worldwide trends, the media and important publications. Then form a set of criteria and compare these against the market to review where your organisation is placed. Criteria could include: brand impact, key messages, image use, what channels are being used i.e. web, social media, advertising, campaigns, use of trend words, offers, wins etc.
  5. Cleanse your database
    When’s the last time your database had an overhaul? If your customer database is not current and clean, you may as well be talking to yourself in the dark. Take time every six months to go through the database and ensure all contacts are current – that way your marketing won’t be falling on deaf ears.
  6. Keep searching for answers
    It’s also important to remember that a customer survey is a great glimpse of performance levels of an organisation services at a given point in time. However, customers’ views change all the time and so can your organisation’s performance. So, measuring satisfaction should be part of a continuous process and a continuous plan, rather than a one-off exercise.
  7. Act on the information
    Once you have embarked on getting those all-important insights, then you need to act on what you’ve uncovered. There’s no point asking what your customers need and want and then not delivering. Perhaps your organisation needs a rebrand, a new logo or name to come into line with your customers, perhaps your website or social media needs a refresh.

So, before you look at your marketing plan, ask yourself: “Can I afford the cost of not understanding my customers’ needs?” Would you get in your car and just start driving without knowing your destination or even how to best get there? It seems like an awful waste of expensive fuel.