Blog post

Focus on Customer Insights and Strategy Will Flow

By Kirsten Newbold-Knipp | March 23, 2018 | 4 Comments

Marketing leaders often ask us questions about how to execute a specific tactic or whether to allocate their budget differently. My first set of questions back to them sounds something like: “What is your overarching strategy? What metrics/KPIs are you targeting? What does success look like (to your CEO/BoD)?”  All too often, the answer is silence on the other end of the phone.  Marketing leaders often get sucked into the firefighting and execution details without having a well-structured strategy and buy-in up, down and across the organization (clients, check out this handy Strategy Framework to get you started).

This is really where customer data comes in to play. Some strategies aim to unseat a competitor or to increase product options – with these directives arrived at based on very inside-out thinking.  It’s not to say those are the wrong choices, but if they aren’t grounded in customer needs and insight derived from analysis of customer behavior, they may be off base. More often, it may be that a strategy from one or two years ago is playing out when the market and your customers have changed.  Customer behavior and perceptions are not static – revisiting customer data and insights to account for both planned and emergent strategy becomes paramount to staying ahead.

know your customers

How Leading Marketers Use Data to Inform Strategy and Shift Behavior

Last week was Gartner’s second CMO Peer Forum in New York. We convened 20 enterprise CMOs to share insights, marketing challenges and success stories an intimate setting that prompted such authenticity – it was amazing to participate and hear the ups, downs and lessons our CMOs took away.

There were sessions on digital transformation (the big meaty business model kind), customer experience and innovation.  Analysts and CMOs jointly presented best practices and lessons learned.  The through line present in all three major topics was data, specifically customer data.  We didn’t dive into the merits of the CDP or personalization technology. Nor did we spend time on the details of how to get Voice of Customer or customer journey data (though you can read about VoC & data gathering here if you are a subscriber).

We discussed how CMOs are building transformational strategies and gaining buy-in to execute against them.  Central to each and every instance of major, strategic change was customer data.  Data that marketers are uniquely positioned to compile and analyze, yielding insights that can lead to small innovations, breakthrough ideas or simply, smart go-to-market plans.

  • Customer Data Transforms Healthcare Point of View: One CMO shared how her teams’ work understanding the changing buying journey in a healthcare setting led to a shift in how the brand thought about who really was their ‘customer’ – moving from payer to patient. As an industry being disrupted – with consumers making more direct medical choices – this insight and requisite strategy shift were critical to success.
  • Customer Insights Define Product Development Direction: Another CMO’s segmentation and persona work found that his firm’s financial services brands were missing out on significant revenue opportunities from audiences that were ‘near neighbors’ of existing client personas. The analysis laid the foundation for new product development to target these potentially lucrative customers as well as go-to-market insights on how to activate that audience.

The exciting takeaway from these stories is that marketers today are better placed than ever to use customer data and sophisticated analytical methods to arrive at insights that drive smart strategic recommendations.  Some, like our finservices CMO, use outside help and consultancies to crunch the numbers while others, like our healthcare CMO, hire a few talented quantitative minds to complement their existing teams. Across verticals and geographies, the theme that holds true is that your customer data is a gold mine and studying it will provide much of what you need to build a brilliant marketing strategy (and get the buy-in and budget to execute).

PS – Our marketing conference in May has a whole track dedicated to Connecting Vision, Strategy and Execution!

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Venky Vijay says:

    Nice article.
    This handy Strategy Framework to get you started) – a link not working, and throwing error,
    You may want to check

  • I’d agree that customer data is a cruical part of this journey, but surely qualitative insight is important as well?

    It’s not just number crunchers you need, but researchers able to listen to the detail of customer experiences and pull out the valuable feedback that most companies already have, but rarely make the most of when building these strategies…

    • Kirsten Newbold-Knipp says:

      100% agree. Both quant and qual insights are key to customer understanding. My post does not intend to imply quant only. Rather, not just ‘going off your gut’ 🙂