Is your marketing segmenting, listening & responding fast enough to customers’ evolving needs?

Happy to share a Guest blog by Sarajit Jha - on a topic that truly resonates with us. As marketers, we urge businesses to understand their customer segments better. Whether you're shaping up your value proposition or drawing buyer personas or chalking out communication / messaging strategies - the very foundation of all that is what segmenting is about. We loved this blog and wanted to share it with you here, with the permission of its author - Sarajit Jha.

Is your marketing segmenting, listening & responding fast enough to customers’ evolving needs?

Change: Else run the risk of your organisation becoming another Dinosaur! 

Every organisation’s marketing is being whip lashed in today’s choppy waters with five key trends – Social, Mobile, Analytics, Automation and Cloud (SMAAC)

These headwinds feed off each other & continue to further evolve both the complexity & opportunity:

  • Social media has become ubiquitous, thanks to mobile devices & engagement forums like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, e-commerce, etc.
  • Smart mobile phones are mushrooming due to connectivity & social media
  • Big data and analytics (using structured and unstructured data) are enabled by social & mobile
  • Computing power & automation is allowing huge data volumes to be handled at insignificant & dropping cost points, in turn increasing value and demand for analytics
  • Cloud services have flourished in the social and mobile world thanks to accelerating computer power & automation

Are you getting caught into letting the Technology (Tail) wag the Dog (business)?

Interestingly, the technology budget is being led, funded, questioned & even managed by marketing. As per Gartner, 38% of the IT budgets are now controlled outside the CIO organization. New designations like CMTO (Chief Marketing Technology Officer) have arrived in organisations. If your mind is swirling with all this stormy new stuff, technology, platforms, sites -then take comfort that you are not alone.

But let’s pause to catch our breath, shall we - because amongst all these squally currents - we have so far not once mentioned the customer, his needs, his wants and his value? This is the beauty and challenge of harnessing of some of today’s head winds, as once you allow them to wind your sails, you can run the risk of getting bogged completely down by some of these new world management trends.

Not to worry – as this is also an opportunity. Core essentials of marketing are eternal despite some of these trade winds tossing and turning your ship. You need to segment a need family, choose a segment, target your customers, create a differentiated message, broadcast it in an interesting and efficient fashion, fulfil the enquiries so generated, seek & get customer feedback, and then improve the entire cycle.

Fig 1: Core essentials of marketing

Ok, so where’s the problem?

Well the problem is three fold:

  1. Rapidly evolving & maturing shifts between products, markets, and customer ‘need families’ & technologies. The same need family today e.g. communication can be met in multiple forms: connecting – by email, chat, voice, VoIP video, interactive TV, etc.; engagement platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google, Bing); devices (tablets,phablets, laptops, smartphones); modes (over the top, Viber, WhatsApp, Skype) etc. These digital eco-systems are evolving, and interacting with each another, as well as the brick and mortar world, in different ways & metamorphosing continuously.
  2. Evolution of markets, which are metamorphosing rapidly from the geographic, product, segment, behaviour and attitudinal cycle. This is driven from the Enterprise side where different successful companies exploring adjacencies have arrived at the same destination through multiple routes. YouTube today is the world’s second largest search engine. YouTube is also the world’s largest Movie & TV channel.
  3. Even though companies are run by smart people, they are often struggling today! Customer feedback loops are heard, analysed understood & implemented at a much slower pace than what the customer market needs today. Product lifecycles have shrunk rapidly and are further shrinking because of the squally eco-system, in which we are all sailing. The organisation’s ability to react to change is often significantly slower than the shifts in customer expectations & value shifts. Organisations, alas, continue to be siloed in their construct & functioning, driven by processes, people and technology built for a bygone era.

What should I do?

Listening closely to customers and segmentation holds the key. If you do this right, at the right pace and follow the rules below, you may survive to fight another day.

Rule 1Provide value

The proverbial 80:20 rule still works. You must continue to estimate quickly where value resides in your chosen market. You have to be able to answer:

  • How is value migrating/shifting/evolving with all these shifts, in respect to your product, space (channels, locations), time (day, week, months, year), individuals (attitudes, needs, behaviour), culture and knowledge (customer evolution, their information base, awareness)?
  • Do I have differentiated mechanisms for ensuring delivery of what customer’s value & really need? Do I have the mechanisms to rapidly evolve when customers expect a change?

Rule 2: Think solution

Customers don’t buy a product; they only buy solutions for problems real or imagined, temporary or recurring, serious or minor, physical or emotional, spiritual or material, local or global, present or future. Clarity on what problem you solve, serves as your compass to stay relevant. Listening closely to customers in real times helps to find these answers faster, in today’s shrinking product/solution cycle- and is the smartest and most agile way to improve your product & processes.

Rule 3: Evolve channels

Customers essentially buy the same or similar solutions but increasingly today the form/channels/methods/packaging/pace may change. The channels by which they want to be contacted (e.g. email vs. telephone), want to wooed (e.g. discounts vs. upgrades), want to be served (home delivery vs. store experience) etc. are a function of habit, situations, social milieu, culture, etc. which itself are continuously evolving & metamorphosing. Here again, listening closely to customers & adapting rapidly helps.

Rule 4: Enable Relationships

Many marketers try to dictate the nature of the relationship with a customer and the default relationship seems to be one of expecting loyalty. The customer may want to engage with you in an adult child relationship, or a secret romance or a one night stand. Let them select the same. Just ensure that you have facilitating and detecting mechanisms to not intrude. Yes you’re right, listening closely to customers, helps to determine this too.

Rule 5: Deliver promises

This never seems to occur to us. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to make or break a promise. All the above 4 rules are designed to help define that promise in an appropriate manner and measure it from a customer’s perspective. Finally, you need to deliver to your customer segment’s promise. As an example, for today’s “I want it now” generation “X” or “Y” or “Z” segments, it’s got to be executed and delivered by organisations at a pace and by channels relevant to them today, not like the older slow & lumbering Dinosaur. And thus the heightened need today to integrate the marketing, sales, manufacturing, delivery, service and technology silos completely around the customer – to enable such evolving needs/pace of change to be responded to.


Do you have a segment promise? Are you listening to customers? Is it measured properly? Is it captured? Is it being analysed & understood carefully? And is the organisation reacting fast enough to the changed & evolving expectations?

(The Author is a believer in the Power of Insights and Implementation. In his view Insights X Implementation = Impact). You can follow him at @sarajitjha

About the Author:
Sarajit is COO at Tata Business Support Services. Featured as 25 Hottest Executives under 40 in Business Today 2014, Sarajit is a speaker in significant industry forums like Confederation of Indian Industry(CII),Nasscom,FICCI & Assocham events on Digital Enterprise, Impact sourcing and Employability.

Sarajit is on LinkedIn







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