You Aren't Your Customer

After a lot of persistent research and hard work, you just completed a presentation of your new year's marketing initiatives to your company's executive team. Well done!

Then it happens—someone at the top with a loud voice and no marketing experience starts telling Marketing what should and shouldn't be done to sell their products and services. They want to put grubby fingerprints all over your hard work, and even though they really don't know what the answers are, they will insist that they are right and you are wrong. They base their mandates on things they may or may not personally like or dislike, not necessarily what is the best message for your business' audience. Their heavy-weighted opinions often amount to a clog in the creative artery for producing quality communications that might actually move the needle for your company.

My friends, this is marketing hell.

This "human construction tape" needs to get out of the way before more damage is done. And if you accept this, you'll be stuck in a hole losing association with your customers.

As marketers, how can we influence these CXO's or are we just stuck? There is a group who can help — your customers. While executives steer the ship, they are the ultimate bosses that control the success of your company.

The problem is your current business model may not be structured to value customer feedback. So, before we determine how to educate Mr. Executive, we must recognize if our business model is setup to care about listening to customers in the first place.

At their core, most businesses are oriented one of four ways: 

  • Production
  • Product
  • Sales
  • Market

Production Orientation

Let's reduce our production costs of this product so we can sell it for less and then people will buy it.

The idea of this concept is that customers will favor products that are highly available and affordable. A business oriented around production believes that the "economies of scale" generated by mass production will reduce costs to maximize profits.

Drawbacks: Compromising product design and quality for the sake of production can reduce appeal to customers. Not only does this require significant capital investment in order to achieve volume but because the product is being sold as a commodity, it kills any unique marketing efforts. This is a price race to the bottom without any winners. 

Product Orientation

We don't need to promote this product because it's the best available, so people will buy it.

A product oriented company believes customers will automatically want to purchase a superior product with the highest quality and best features.

 Drawbacks: The problem with this approach is that superiority alone does not sell products and it requires companies to continuously add product improvements to stay in order to stay in front of their industry. 

Sales Orientation

Our product doesn't need to be superior as long as our sales effort is intense and focused.

A sales orientated company's focus is simply make the product and sell it to the target market. This organization makes what they think the customer needs or likes without relevant research. Then they utilize large-scale selling and promotion to create transactions rather than building profitable relationships.

Drawbacks: People don't buy something just because you're selling it. Such an aggressive selling program focuses on tracking down prospects and selling to the product benefits, ignoring customer needs. ABC = Always Be Considerate of the customers needs!

Market Orientation

We understand what customers want and will offer a product that responds to their needs and values.

The market oriented company achieves their goals by knowing the needs and wants of their target markets and delivering the desired satisfactions better than their competitors. Under the market concept, customer focus and value are the routes to achieve sales and profit—a customer-centered “sense and respond” philosophy. The job is not to find the right customers for your product but to find the right products for your customers. 


ferris buellers day off GIF

Seriously though, no single business orientation addresses all situations. There are definitely disadvantages to ignoring market orientation, but also some practicality in others.

So if you're one of the lucky ones working in a market oriented company - why can't we go with our personal opinions on marketing decisions?


And neither is your executive. You both know how the sausage is made. You’re inside the walls. There are so many unconscious things you’re accepting of and knowledgeable of that your customer is not. As soon as you were hired, you became nothing like the customers you serve. Your needs and values may be similar to your customer base but your perspective is skewed.

Marketers start losing customer perspective as soon as they want to trust gut feelings. The first step is admitting you’re different than your customers and remain disciplined through practice. This is why an experienced marketer can be successful in a variety of industries. Women can market men’s products and vise versa. The key is not who you are but rather your ability to be market oriented at all times. 

To sustain success, it is critical to rely on objective customer feedback and third party research of your customer base when crafting strategy and guiding your business decisions. 

If you don't have it—get it.

For some, it can be challenging to stand up to their bosses and communicate what they believe. But we’ve all been hired to leave things better today than yesterday. We have a saying at Ivor Andrew, "If you want a friend, get a dog." If you want an honest agency partner through the good, the bad, and the ugly—we are here to support you.