The last couple of posts in our Future of Financial Marketing series focused on making yourself relevant to customers and coming up with mission statements that are short and sweet enough to tweet.

Both feel like they ought to be 99% ‘just good common sense’.  Both feel like they ought to be fairly straightforward – after all, you know your customers and what they want, right?

Wrong.

According to research carried out by IBM in 2011, there is a huge perception gap between what businesses think their customers want and what those very same customers actually want.

IBM ran a study called “From Social Media to Social CRM – What Customers Want”.  It was designed to help them understand what customers wanted from social marketing.  IBM understood that a shift had occurred in the brand/customer relationship.  IBM understood that consumers now have more control than ever before, and they understood that that shift would require brands to work harder and harder to engage customers – to get them interested in a conversation.

But actually, the most important thing IBM knew was what they didn’t know.

By going out and asking the question about what customers want from social CRM, IBM stole a march on the crowd.  Rather than guessing what their customers expected, they went out and asked them.

To add a little spice to the experiment, they went out and asked businesses what they thought customers wanted as well.

And then they compared the results….

As you can see in the image above, the result was evidence of a huge perception gap between companies and their most important stakeholders.

Whereas 65% of businesses view social media as a new source of revenue but not as a channel for offering discounts, coupons or social commerce, consumers claimed almost the direct opposite.

Whilst brands thought customers wanted to learn about new products, consumers are actually more interested in being able to rate and review the products they have already bought.

In The End of Business, Brian Solis comments on this gap by observing that, “the adaptive business will think more like a customer, considering their needs and their needs within each channel rather than telling them what they think they want to hear.  If you are unsure, ask.”

That’s good advice.

It’s very tempting to see social media as a cheap alternative to traditional marketing.  It’s easy to take marketing messages and roll them out through each and every channel.  It’s quicker to predict what customers want than to actually ask them, and it’s cheaper in the short term to sell products rather than offer discounts.

The trouble is that all of the above offer a fast route to irrelevance.  You might have the best products in the world, you might have a great technical team or fantastic Facebook artwork but if you don’t offer customers what they want it’s a total waste of time.

Social media is about responding to the customer being in control; so put your money where your mouth is and actually find out what they want, and give it to them.  The rewards will be there in the long term.

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Hazel McHugh

Before becoming a freelance writer and digital marketer, Hazel was Group Marketing Manager at Santander.
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