Getting personal with your customers

In his monthly column, Brian Gray from Glasgow-based erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing offers his thoughts on all things marketing. This month he’s hoping you’ll get to grips with your customers.


By the time you’re reading this, Christmas and New Year have come and gone. I hope you all had great times with your friends and loved ones, and made some great New Year’s Resolutions.

I hope one of these was to increase your profitability. I hope another – closely related to the previous one – is to know more about your customers. The two are, afterall, inextricably linked.

If you’re an online retailer, your customer database will hopefully be swelling from all those transactions over the festive period. And you’ve still got Valentine’s Day to go. It’s the perfect opportunity to really get to grips with your customers. Their minds, that is.

With a well-designed, well executed customer research survey, you’ll have a wealth of real insight to help your subsequent marketing decision making. Need further convincing? Shame on you! So here’s why I’m giving you not one but twelve – yes, you read right – reasons why you should be surveying your customers.

1. It’s cheaper than you think.
Online customer surveys can be extremely cost effective, especially when using today’s modern applications like Survey Gizmo or Survey Monkey. With fieldwork costs much lower than what they used to be, it frees up more of your budget to key tasks like questionnaire design AND get the MD’s blessing for it too.

2. The cost of NOT doing so could be severe.
Do you think every disgruntled customer spends time writing to complain? Nope. They just disappear without trace, whilst your rivals welcome them with open arms. Customer satisfaction surveys tell you how well you’re performing. Problem areas are identified. If the customer agrees to waive anonymity, they can provide further details and an opportunity for you to contact them to resolve the matter. Successful problem resolution often turns complainers into your loudest supporters. But you won’t know unless you ask them in the first place!

3. You can increase sales.
I thought this would pique your interest! Ask your customers not only how satisfied they are, but how much of their total spend is with you. Chances are you’ll have multiple rivals with customers spending unevenly between you all. Find out what your share of wallet is: if your wallet share is low, you know there’s work to be done and more revenue to be generated.

4. You can allocate your resources more effectively.
Different customers value different aspects of your service. But which ones? Ask your customers how important key service aspects are, then ask how satisfied they are with each aspect. You’ll soon see exactly what areas require attention, while paying less attention to the aspects deemed unimportant. Plus, these might vary between your highest spending customers and others. Think of the time and effort spared!

5. It makes for good PR.
There’s nothing like a great headline is there? If you’ve received excellent satisfaction ratings or your customers’ have some interesting preferences that you can capitalise on either on your own website or in the media, then shout about it! Use the percentages to your advantage. But only do this if the survey was properly conducted – no voodoo research allowed!

6. It provides great content marketing material.
Content marketing is as vital part of your marketing communication arsenal. Many companies struggle to generate enough good quality content. Use your customer survey data to drive your blog posts, website pages, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn company pages, as well as lengthier reports. And don’t forget to go visual: your customer survey data can make for punchy and informative infographics.

7. It shows you give a damn about your customers.
Reaching out for your customers’ opinions and feedback doesn’t only help your business, but shows that you genuinely care what they think. Furthermore, if survey results are disappointing but clearly indicate what needs improving, it’s an ideal opportunity to address this to customers and show how you’ll rectify it.

And for customers who don’t want to be blatantly marketed to, it’s a deft way of maintaining awareness. But be warned: the survey is the primary purpose for communicating. How do you think customers will react when receiving a request to participate in a customer survey and be simultaneously deluged with sales messages? Not well.

8. You know where you stand.
When your survey fieldwork has ended and the numbers, percentages and mean scores are all generated, you know how the land lies. Remember when you were a child it was always the unknown that caused the most anxiety? For businesses, it’s often the same. It’s always better knowing what the situation is, even if it is a bitter pill to swallow. Which leads nicely to…

9. You know what to do next.
Only by knowing what the current situation is can you effectively move forward. Good customer research and insight provides a solid foundation on which to progress.

10. It’s a key aspect of your marketing strategy process.
Successful companies play to their strengths. Their marketing strategies are aligned to the SWOT Analyses undertaken for each of their customer segments. Through your customer research, identify what they value most – your Critical Success Factors (CSF’s). Take the CSF’s, weight them if need be according to importance, then rate how you and your rivals perform in each.

You’ll see at a glance where you stack up on each of the CSF’s, only now you will know which ones to focus on. If it’s a very important CSF and you’re rating badly in it, you know you need to take action. Fast. Conversely, if your rivals are scoring badly on one key CSF and you’re far ahead, exploit it. Emphasise it in your marcoms activity. Remember: play to your strengths!

11. It saves you making silly – and costly – mistakes.
Those of a certain age may remember Coca Cola launching New Coke in the 1980’s…only to pull the plug on it less than 80 days later. It ranks as one of the biggest marketing cock-ups ever. Sure, product testing suggested it would be a winner. Unfortunately though, they underestimated the importance of the emotional link that existed between consumers and the brand’s values and heritage. Big mistake.

12. You get the perspective that counts.
There’s a great quote attributed to Walmart boss Sam Walton. “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the Chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Sam knew a thing or two. Consequently, where does the customer sit when the next Board meeting convenes? Are they sat next to the MD or perhaps the Finance Director? Either way, the voice of the customer is far more important than any other attendees. To remedy this, customer insight generated from your research HAS to be heard and absorbed by everyone there. Ignore your customers at your own peril.

So, there’s twelve – yes twelve – reasons why you should now be thinking about organising your own customer survey.

Now that you’re suitably convinced of the need to be surveying your customers, refrain yourself from hurriedly thinking up ten questions and posting a survey link out on social media inviting everyone and their dog to take part. That would be rather daft.

While modern online survey applications have enabled anyone to run surveys, the opening of the floodgates have unfortunately facilitated the cack-handed production of some god-awful surveys within the erotic retail industry. I know: I’ve seen them (and previously commented on them elsewhere).

Many of them come down to the actual questionnaire design. Why do people think that just because the survey app is available AND they can ask some questions, there’s going to be worthwhile usable data? Using the same logic, how likely is it that if I am given some paint and a brush I’m going to be immediately capable of creating something like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? I’ve been given the same tools as Michelangelo, so surely there’s no problem, right?

There’s just one. I couldn’t paint even if my life depended on it. Entrusting me with a tin of Dulux, a brush and a bare wall – or ceiling – is a pretty risky move. The same principle applies to those given access to online survey platforms. Those untrained in marketing research can write questions in the same way that I can hold a paint brush. The tools – namely the brush, the paint – and the online survey platform – are all there. There’s just one thing missing – the knowhow.

And in next month’s issue, I’ll help you out with that. I’ll give you key questionnaire design tips to really help you get the data you need, while minimising the risk of you getting nothing but nonsensical numbers from wrongly worded and constructed questions.

The second key issue I invariably come across is that of ‘voodoo’ polling: when a survey link is sent out with zero control over who completes it (‘self-selected’ surveys). Think of those little poll graphics you see in your newspaper over BREXIT; dog fouling on the streets; closing of village halls, etc. etc. Do you really think they’re at all accurate or representative? Think again. They’re completed by those who are obsessed by the subject, or have an axe to grind. It’s anything but a representative sample. Only idiots would dare make marketing decisions based on data gathered this way. Frankly, you’d be better off reading tea leaves.

And this is where having your own customer database really pays off. In direct contrast to voodoo polling, you can also employ probability sampling, rather than convenience sampling. Every person in the database has a known chance of being selected. Furthermore, if for instance you already know that 63% of your customers are female, but only 50% of survey respondents are, the data can be weighted accordingly so the final numbers are representative. That’s the sort of customer research that makes it worthwhile – and powerful – stuff.

So, here’s hoping 2018 is the year you appreciate the importance of your customer database in more than one way. It’s not just for sending follow up communications with them, important though this is. It’s a marketing treasure chest just waiting to be opened up to give you the insight that will drive your company forward in the right direction.

Brian can be contacted at, found on Twitter @LasciviousMktng or phoned on +44 (0)141 255 0769.


Click here to read part II of this series.