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Silurum - Customer Insight & Strategy



What we think

My ramblings...

Has your CRM strategy taken a wrong turn?

Tim Williams

Are you trying to change how your customers think when you should be focused on how they feel?

CRM is seen as a way to encourage a desired change in a customer’s behaviour.

We use data to know who they are, how they’ve acted in the past and ideally, what motivates them; armed with this we craft tailored messages that should resonate.

We therefore put a great deal of effort into crunching data to arrive at what we think will be the most compelling ‘call to action’. In our digital world of Big Data and AI surely this represents a powerful way to achieve CRM success?

So why does this approach not always work as well as it could?

Because it overlooks a key insight into the decision-making process.

People don’t change their behaviour as a result of listening to a rational argument and making a careful assessment of the facts (however well targeted). They act out of emotion not reason.

Our actions are driven by what we feel even (especially) when we don’t consciously realise it. Our behaviour is driven first by emotion, only subsequently do we use reason to explain it.

Before we can encourage a call to act we therefore need to understand how the customer feels. The 'call to feeling' is what drives the call to action.

So, when designing your CRM strategy, instead of starting with the behaviour you want to encourage think rather of how your message should reflect the emotions your audience is experiencing.

The secret recipe for success?

Tim Williams

Perhaps the greatest mystery for Marketers is why some brands/products/ideas are wildly successful whilst others never get off the ground.

There seems to be no obvious connection between the amount of money spent on research, product development and marketing and the actual likelihood of success.  As with the worlds of fashion and music many hits seem to come out of nowhere with apparently no major investment behind them and yet other launches flop spectacularly despite months of preparation, design and planning.


So what’s really going on? Should we not bother spending on research and advertising anymore and simply trust to blind luck?    


Perhaps the answer lies simply in knowing where and how to focus your spend to maximise your chances of success. Rather than simply throwing money behind a product launch, consider what might be the smartest ‘strategy for success’ given the nature of your product and your customers.

The bad news is that there’s no standard answer to what this should be. What’s right for you will depend on the unique and complex mix of your brand, your category and your target audience - so you cannot simply copy what’s worked elsewhere and expect it to work for your business.

 The good news though is that there are techniques you can explore that will help you uncover the right approach and a number of thought leaders have already explored this issue for us.


Be remarkable

The ever thought-provoking Seth Godin uses the term ‘Edgecraft’ to describe what happens when an organisation achieves fame (or as he puts it become remarkable) through the single-minded pursuit of a radically differentiated customer experience.

He invites brands and their marketers to leave their traditional comfort zone, seek inspiration from outside their industry and consider whether seemingly extreme ideas could be adapted to work for them.

Success (at least in terms of standing out) can thus be achieved simply by behaving in a dramatically unexpected way. Or, as Tom Peters put it 15 years ago, we should take stock and ask ourselves:


“Exactly how are we dramatically different?”


Be contagious

But achieving differentiation is just the start. How do you spread awareness of this difference? How do you achieve a critical mass of people noticing you and talking about what you do?

Jonah Berger’s book Contagious is another great resource. He explores what characteristics cause all sorts of things (ideas, religions, fashions, brands…) to gain traction and identifies some common features.

Brands and products are thus more likely to become ‘contagious’ if they can tap in to one or more of the following drivers of human behaviour:

Social currency’ – whereby simply being associated with something deemed to be cool or exclusive gives kudos (think of a Prada carrier bag)

Triggers – fostering an association where people are reminded about your brand (think Ivy League colleges and Gant shirts)

‘Emotion’ – tapping in to strong feelings (positive or negative) that people are naturally inclined to share with others

Public – people imitate others (often without meaning to) so create a product with a unique visual identifier (e.g. the white Apple ear buds)

‘Practical value’ – make it easy to share by making useful content

Story telling’ - messages are far more memorable when delivered in this way

Any one of these characteristics greatly increases the chance of successfully creating awareness but you need to think carefully about which is most appropriate for your organisation and your customers.


Make it sticky

Finding a way to differentiate your offering and then achieving a tipping-point in awareness are tremendous achievements – but you mustn’t stop and rest on your laurels at this point.

How many ideas, products and brands experience a brief summer of success and then seem to fade into the background? What’s the difference between a short-lived fad and a sustainable idea?

Chip and Dan Heath’s 2007 book Made to Stick provides a useful checklist of attributes that help ideas last:

(i)            Be simple – what’s the single most important thing you want people to remember? How do you best share this?

(ii)          Be unexpected – surprise by breaking with tradition, hold attention by creating ‘knowledge gaps’ that provoke curiosity to learn more

(iii)         Be concrete – make it easy to visualise

(iv)        Be credible – provide the proof

(v)          Use emotions – make people care

(vi)        Use stories – use key plot lines to wrap up your message (e.g. overcoming a challenge)

These represent a natural overlap with the above techniques for stimulating differentiation and awareness so you should by now be seeing a possible pattern that could work for your organisation.



It’s clear that the question is not whether you should bother to invest in marketing at all but how best to invest in it – and there are many questions you need to ask along the way.


  • What is it about your brand that will get people talking about it (and keep them talking)?

  • Could success for your organisation lie in behaving in a radically unexpected manner?

  • Can being associated with your brand make someone feel good?

  • Should you make your product as visible as possible?

  • Is it better to talk about rational product benefits or focus on creating emotional outcomes?

  • Would the smartest strategy be to wrap your message within the context of a story and let that do your marketing for you?


So the secret success recipe is…

…different for everyone but has to include the same 3 simple (but difficult) elements:


1.   Find the right way to be dramatically different – be remarkable

2.   Find the right way to show how you are different – be contagious

3.   Make it last – be sticky

 Clearly there are many possibilities to consider and there is no shortage of potential success strategies but perhaps the first, critical step is to ask:


“What do I want to be famous for?”

The best customer you never had?

Tim Williams

We like to think we know a lot about the people who buy from us, but what about those who don’t buy?

Traditionally marketers analyse their ‘best’ customers and seek to find more people who look just like them.

But the problem is that even within this target audience there will be a large proportion of people who don’t purchase from you – who appear to be very similar to your current customers but who, for some reason, are not engaging with you.


Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know why?

What is it about your brand, product or service that works for one person but doesn’t work for someone else who is otherwise very similar?

This is a different task to understanding how to appeal to an entirely new market and potentially far more powerful because you may only need to make some relatively small adjustments to nudge a large number of people into experiencing your brand.


But do you know what those adjustments need to be?

Rather than agonise over satisfaction scores from people who buy why not try talking to the people who don’t?


Why your CRM project will fail

Tim Williams

Something doesn't quite add up about CRM 

Over the past 15 years numerous reports have claimed ‘failure’ rates of as much as 70% for CRM projects. Despite our best efforts consumers continue to be fickle, dissatisfied and sceptical about brands and their attempts to ‘manage relationships’. Yet 14 million people worldwide now use CRM software and the CRM market is predicted to be worth over $36 billion by 2017.

So, what’s going on? Are brands spending a fortune just to maintain the status quo?

Are we even measuring the right things?

In its widest sense CRM is about using data, insight, technology, people and processes in an orchestrated way to help acquire, grow or keep customers.

That covers an awful lot things we could measure to define success.

But maybe we don’t need to. We would argue there is one overriding measure of CRM success that has been curiously lacking so far – namely the extent to which your CRM system/programme/philosophy helps your customer achieve their objectives.


The Great Delusion?

We have become seduced by theoretical methodologies and technology and in our desire to be smart we did something stupid – we forgot the customer.

The irony is we use the word customer’ so often - ‘customer segments’, ‘customer journeys’, ‘customer touch points’ etc. But invariably all these phrases denote our view of what the customer looks like; of the journey we want them to take; of the channels we’d prefer them to use.

In fact we can become so caught up in our own rhetoric, so self-obsessed with our own brand, that we lose sight of the reality on the ground.

The bad news: is that customer reality is messy.

That reality looks something like this:

• You’re most likely not an important part of your customer’s life

• Even your high value customers don’t especially care about your brand

• You’re just one of many brands they ‘engage’ with, usually unconsciously, every day

• Your most attractive prospects are not watching your TV commercials

• Your social media strategy is totally irrelevant to the majority of your customers

• Your most ‘loyal’ customers would probably be surprised to hear themselves described as such

• Your most loyal customers are the least valuable

• Your most valuable customers are the least loyal

• Those who say they are most likely to recommend you are highly unlikely to actually do so

• You are engaged in a customer experience arms race that you cannot win

• Your competitors are not who you think they are…


The good news: what doesn’t matter to your customer shouldn’t matter to you.


Rather you should focus most about what your customer cares about most:

• Stuff that’s useful and helpful

• Stuff that‘s interesting and inspiring

• Stuff that saves money or adds value

• Anything that helps me address the need I have right now

Surely that shouldn’t be too difficult?

Have we been trying very hard for the past 15 years to be very good - at doing the wrong things?


The purpose of CRM is to find a role for your brand in the eyes of the customer

If you view CRM just as a way to be more efficient at delivering your organisation’s objectives you will ultimately be disappointed.

If, on the other hand, you view CRM as primarily about being more effective at delivering your customer’s objectives you will find that your commercial goals should more than take care of themselves.

Another way to view this is to ask the question:

What role can our brand most effectively play in the noisy, crowded and chaotic life of our customer - and when & how should we play it?’

The answer will of course vary according to the category your brand is in and the nature of your audience.

There is no standard model for CRM – but if you want it to be successful for your organisation you need to start with insight into you what success looks like for your customer.

Is your Marketing in tune with your market?

Tim Williams

One of the cardinal sins committed by marketers is to create neat stereotypes of customers – to assume they all fit within prescribed profiles or segments, have consistent motivations and behave in predictable ways.

Worse still is the ‘people like us syndrome’ – whereby we project our own tastes and values on to our target audience and assumes they will share them.

In other words we often market to the customers we would like to have rather than the ones we actually do have.

I think there is a key reason for this. Marketing in general and Advertising in particular is notable for a demographic structural imbalance that has serious implications for the long-term health of the brands it represents.

This imbalance is that the people who work in the industry are not representative of the wider population – the very people we go to such lengths to research, profile and ‘engage’ with.

For example, whilst there is no shortage of women working in agency account management at a junior level only 3% of agency Creative Directors are female. As the proportion of UK population aged over 50 is forecast to grow by 38% by 2030 the proportion of ad agency employees in this age bracket is a whopping… 5%.

Walk around any agency or marketing department and see if you can spot any grey-haired men (let alone women!) outside of the corner office.

Quite simply, the flat white sipping, quinoa-munching denizens of Soho and Shoreditch are about as unrepresentative of the ‘real world’ as it is possible to get.

This wouldn’t particularly matter - except for the fact that it results in a large swathe of consumers feeling that brands they have been loyal to are now either ignoring them entirely or side-lining them as they attempt to appeal to an elusive ‘new’ audience.

Of course it is essential to consider your future audience – but it makes no sense to discard your current one in the process.

Turning detractors into fans

Tim Williams

All too often the relationship between a brand and its customers becomes one of ‘them and us’.  When a problem occurs we can be all too ready to cite the T&Cs or hide behind a Byzantine complaints process.

Are we too concerned with the short-term desire to save costs rather than the longer-term job of creating real, sustainable value?

Imagine what would happen if we actively sought out unhappy customers and asked them ‘How can we work with you to make this work?’

Imagine the word of mouth that would generate.

Consider how hard it to stay angry with someone who wants to play on your team. What would happen if we changed the dynamic and surprised our most angry detractors by taking their side?

What if we defined a successful outcome in terms of the distance the customer has travelled from being a detractor to being an advocate?

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have a KPI that measured the ‘detractor turnaround’ score?



The best way to reduce customer complaints is...

Tim Williams

Encourage them to complain.

I recently saw a question on a forum asking how to minimise the number of customer complaints a business received. Whilst this sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to want to do some of the suggested answers frankly horrified me (deliberately hiding your phone number being my personal favourite).

More importantly though is the implication betrayed by this question that too many organisations continue to fail to see what a contact centre should, fundamentally be there for.

Rather than see it as a critical customer touch point too many businesses still see their call centre as just a cost centre - measuring ‘success’ in terms of FTE levels, call handling times and the number of calls deflected to ‘cheaper’, self-service channels. 

In other words they invest in an expensive customer touch point and then do everything they can think of to discourage customers from actually using it (anyone who has recently tried to phone HMRC will know how this makes the customer feel about the brand).

A simple leap of imagination is all that’s needed to realise that customer complaints are in fact something you need to encourage – how else will you know precisely where you are failing to be in tune with what matters to them? 


How else will you know why people are not buying from you?


If you are relying on broad measures such as NPS or, even worse, satisfaction surveys to tell you what you think your customers really think you are at best missing an opportunity and at worst deluding yourself into a false sense of security.

Go out of your way to encourage people to talk to you about what they think you’re doing wrong.

Yes this will increase the inbound call rate but what would you prefer – a silent call centre or a profitable business?


Actually, this is the only question you need to ask

Tim Williams

Why are the people who could be our customers not our customers?


Frederick Reicheld famously argued that asking your customers if they would recommend you is a powerful metric - and I would agree. But I don't think it's the only question we need to ask. Especially so because there's a whole group of people who tend to get overlooked.


What about those people who are not your customers but could be? Do we do enough to understand what's stopping them engaging with us in the first place?


Knowing why they never entered our store, visited our web site or completed a transaction is, I'd argue, the most important thing we need to understand.


Are you a hero or villain in your customer's story?

Tim Williams

A lot of guff is generated by marketers when we talk about the ‘brand story’ - where the history of a brand is related in reverential tones more suited to hagiography than commerce. 

Sometimes you could be forgiven for thinking that a successful brand that launched decades ago had some kind of manifest destiny and that the founder was possessed of superhuman powers of foresight and planning. 


This of course is nonsense. If there was some kind of magic ingredient wouldn't we all be using it?


But, perhaps if we flip the concept of the brand story on its head and think in terms of the customer’s story we may be on to something interesting that helps explain what it takes for a brand to be successful.


By ‘customer story’ I mean this: what role  does your product or service play for your customer?  Where does it fit in the context of their life and what matters to them?


Is it a mundane, frequent purchase that is lumped together with similar commodities without much thought to the brand (or even the price)?  Or is something that is not encountered very often but which has the potential to make a powerful impact of the life of the customer (such as a mortgage, a holiday or a car).


In the case of the former the challenge for brand owners is to stand out and cut through the noise. For the latter though the task is very different because they have the opportunity to win (or lose) a lifetime’s worth of business and to generate the Holy Grail of emotional loyalty.


If your brand is in a category with the potential to have a major impact on your customer’s life it takes a lot of work and insight to be successful – but I would argue that this is an investment well worth making.


Perhaps a useful starting point would be to ask yourself ‘How can I make what I do of greater significance to my customer?  Can I play a more important role in their story?’


Why you should never start with business requirements

Tim Williams

Instead, why not begin by figuring out the customer’s requirements.

Ironically the 'traditional' approach to CRM projects is to start by asking what we the organisation want. This is an important question that needs asking but if we start with this we risk falling into the trap of assuming that our definition of of good is the same as our customer's; that our business 'rules' and ideal, linear, rational customer journeys will be willingly complied (that word again) with by them.

(With apologies to JFK) isn't it smarter to begin by asking not what our customers can do for us but what we can do for them?

If we're really clever this approach may also uncover some customer requirements the customer doesn't even know they have - yet.


Do the basics really need to be brilliant?

Tim Williams

I just want them to work.


How many brands get distracted by the wrong things - not least the obsession with 'gold plating' certain aspects of the customer experience that don't need to be whilst neglecting the (often trickier) things that may actually make a much bigger difference.

Next time you hear the phrase 'brilliant basics' stop and check whether you're missing a bigger opportunity.


Mind the gap!

Tim Williams

Most businesses spend a lot of time and energy agonising over their goals and objectives, establishing KPIs and targets and defining strategies and tactics to achieve them. 

In fact a whole industry has grown up around this and several months of the year are often dedicated to the next round of strategic planning. This is especially true when it comes to Marketing – not least due to the annual ritual of the budget land grab.

Now don’t get me wrong – defining clear objectives, planning how you will deliver them and knowing what resources you will need is a fundamentally important management task.

But…sometimes we as marketers get so caught up in the process that we forget that our objectives are only part of the picture. Have we given enough thought to our customer’s goals? What are they trying to achieve when they do business with our industry? What ‘success measures’ do they have? (not that they would ever use such an expression of course).

Are we too focussed on defining what success looks like for us and forgetting that we have to start by defining what it looks like to our customer?

If we just design our businesses around what is important to us we may well achieve a measure of success. But it is likely to be along the lines of what Fred Reicheld calls ‘bad profits’ – short-term, unsustainable and likely to come back to haunt us.

In the worst case scenario our goals (e.g. cutting costs by discouraging people from contacting Customer Services) may be at complete variance with those of the customer (who may need to speak to a human being rather than consult a FAQ page). It doesn’t take an MBA  to realise what will be the end result of such a fundamental disconnect.


This the gap we have to be mindful of.


To close it we just need to ask: ‘what do our customers want to achieve through us?’