"Knowledge is Power"… Customer Knowledge, That Is.

Steve Norall - March 17, 2009

Full disclosure.  I’m a child of the 70s.  I grew up watching those old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons.  Do you remember them?  If you want a good chuckle, here’s a video of the theme song.

Knowledge is power, whether you are a kid growing up or a marketeer today trying to grow revenue in a recession.

Of course, more than anything, knowledge about customers is key. And its a tough one to get!

At TechValidate, I have the opportunity to work with a lot of IT vendors across the entire landscape from applications to infrastructure, and I’ve learned that marketing teams of all sizes are challenged to get useful information about and from their customers in a systematic fashion.  The desire is always there, but the means to get that raw customer data and turn it into customer knowledge is tough. In the words of one customer, “We know that information about our customers is pure gold, but we don’t always know where its buried yet.”

The trap to avoid is assuming that “asking questions” of your customers is going to give you knowledge about them.  It won’t. Without a systematic approach and a means of making sure that you use what you learn from customers, you’ll end up with what I affectionately call, “vampire data.” That’s customer data that never sees the light of day.  When we start working with new customers, we commonly hear, “We used to do a survey and got a lot of customer data back.  But then it just sat in Excel.”  That’s vampire data; its just sitting around in the dark, not being leveraged in your marketing and sales activities to prospects.

So, how do you avoid vampire data and get customer knowledge that a marketing team can honestly call “pure gold”? Plan for the usage of the customer data from the beginning. Its that simple.

Customer knowledge is simply customer data that you can and want to shine a light on! In other words, the way to escape vampire data is to build a clear plan for the usage of all of your customer outreach. Know why you’re asking and what you’re asking. What will it mean for you if you get good answers back for each question? How will these results be leveraged as knowledge assets in your marketing? Doing that simple connection to your intended usage of the data lets you move from a passive low-impact statement like “Our customers routinely tell us our product saves them money” (read: the vampire data is locked away somewhere. Trust us!) to “We save 75% of our customers $100,000 or more by using our product. Here’s the proof.” That latter statement is very specific, its based on demonstrable customer information, and it proves your point. Poof, that customer data has become knowledge!

So the next time you go to collect data from your customers, think about the details of how your marketing team is going to utilize it. Collecting customer data is always necessary, but if you ask your customers questions when you already know what you want to do with their answers, you’re building up customer knowledge and that is true power!

Steve Norall

Steve Norall is CEO and Co-Founder of TechValidate. He brings a wealth of experience in both enterprise marketing and software engineering to TechValidate.

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