marketing lifecycle
September 1, 2016

Why you need to embed Customer Insight in your marketing lifecycle

By Paul Laughlin

This post starts a new theme, focussed on ‘Marketing Applications’. By that, I mean examples of how Customer Insight can help throughout the marketing lifecycle.

As before we will seek to bring you a mix of voices, as well as surveying your current practice.

I hope, this Marketing focussed month, will bring some very practical content for you to use in your leadership role.

Reporting Lines:

Customer Insight (CI) teams can take different forms in different business (partly rightly, to reflect the needs of that business). One such variation is reporting line. Some CI teams report into Operations, Sales, IT or even Finance. However, by far the most common reporting line is into Marketing.

That makes sense to me, as over the years I have seen more & more applications for Customer Insight, across the marketing lifecycle. Increasingly Marketing teams are realising that use of data, analytics, research & database marketing techniques is part of their role. Sadly these technical teams are, too often, still separated. But at least there are signs of collaboration.

Marketing Automation:

As well as the different organisational designs, it appears that companies & leaders recognise different applications of insight to marketing. Some focus on early stage roles in strategic decisions, some on proposition development & some on campaign execution or marketing measurement. Very few appear to use customer insight in all they do.

Meanwhile, one of the trends of recent years has been the adoption of Marketing Automation systems. In some cases the term has almost been used to replace the infamous ‘CRM system’. But, for many businesses, it is more about bringing a structured workflow, resource management & quality controls to the work of marketing teams. Talking with consultants who specialise in helping businesses implement marketing automation systems (none appear to work straight out of the box), reveals a sadly lacking focus on customer insight.

This is such a missed opportunity. The ‘marketing workflow’ needed by today’s business requires insight input, validation, targeting or measurement at almost every stage. But, it seems marketing automation designs are not routinely embedding customer insight deliverables into marketing processes.


It is perhaps surprising that more focus has not been put on automating routine use of insight in marketing, given the regulatory environment.

Whether you consider certain vertical markets (like the role of the Financial Conduct Authority), or the higher hurdles coming to all data uses (with the adoption of GDPR principles), marketers will need more evidence. Those data marketers keeping up-to-date with their professional responsibilities will realise they need to evidence suitability of their offerings, targeting of their communications & appropriate use of data.

All these regulatory challenges can be tackled with judicious use of customer insight. One of the driving forces behind the popular Conduct Risk & Customer Insight” training course, run by Laughlin Consultancy, has been the opportunity to achieve compliance by changing your ‘BAU’. The course focusses on the opportunities, throughout marketing processes, to embed use of insight & thus both keep FCA happy & improve commercial performance.

Where’s the gap?

So, in what parts of the marketing lifecycle are marketers neglecting to use Customer Insight? Where are the most important gaps?

Based on my consultancy work, often helping companies design their customer insight strategy, I would identify the following common gaps:

Participation decisions:

  • Either not having a clear understanding of market segments, or not making participation (product categories or distribution channels) based on segment fit or size of appeal.

Communication design:

  • The use of insight generation has grown for product design (as per our recent series), but too few marketing teams also use that same insight generation to design their comms.

Communication testing:

  • Quite often this is left to ad-hoc qualitative research, with insufficient use of techniques like eye-tracking or quantitative experimentation at concept stage.

Event triggers:

  • Identified as important to targeting in two recent research reports, from the DMA & MyCustomer/DataIQ, event triggers deserve to be more widely used in targeting marketing campaigns. For further thoughts on why you don’t just need propensity models, see previous posts on both events & propensity models.

Holistic Marketing measurement:

  •  As more & more Marketing Directors are expected to report on their ROI or Return On Marketing Expenditure (ROME), once again insight can help. Not just the traditional role of database marketing practices, in reporting incremental return against control groups. But also, increasingly, the design of holistic measurement programme (converging evidence from brand tracking, econometrics & other data sources). This previous post shares some more detail on that.

Will you be insightful or ignored?

In closing, I’d encourage all customer insight leaders to get closer to those leading Marketing in their businesses (as we encouraged in this post). Marketing will become increasingly challenging over the next 12 months. CI leaders have the potential to become trusted advisors who can support Marketing Directors in navigating those choppy waters.

To return to theme of regulation. I once more advise readers to not underestimate the potential impact of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on their businesses. Despite Brexit, every commentator seems to agree that this regulation will impact UK businesses. The most eye-catching element may be the scale of potential fines (up to 4% of global annual turnover), but the changes to consent may impact marketers more. The new hurdle will be proving “positive unambiguous consent”. Many businesses may conclude they need to move to opt-in for all marketing content.

So, going forwards, the biggest threat to marketers (those not embedding insight into their processes) may not just be losing customers. It may be losing the right to talk to them!