To grow sustainably, know your customers

Understanding your customers is meaningful when based on how they behave and what they value, not just demographic data points.

To grow sustainably, know your customers A successful company is a growing company. Growth leads to financial stability and flexibility; it attracts motivated and engaged employees with opportunities for advancement and personal development, and readiness to contribute to organizational success.

Sustainable growth — i.e., success — rises from customer acquisition and retention. Companies that are growing excel in three core areas, with the first two supporting the third:

  • A robust framework for determining where to grow
  • Methodologies for determining how to grow
  • Advanced customer acquisition capabilities

Customer acquisition is the product of understanding your customers, existing and potential. This understanding is informed by customer segmentation based on behaviors and values — not just demographics — and by journey mapping that defines how to invest in meeting expressed needs. The result is a deep level of customer knowledge that guides the appropriate targeting of your resources to differentiate your company for your customer segments at the stages and in the ways they prefer.

Getting segmentation right A financial services company with several locations was planning the introduction of a new mobile app. The company had divided its retail customers into rural and urban, with the vast majority being rural. Relying on a study that labeled rural populations as older and conservative, the company assumed that their largest customer segment wasn’t likely to adapt to doing business electronically. But further research and analysis revealed that many of their customers who live far from the company are tech savvy and have actually been clamoring for an electronic option. Alternatively, younger urbanites — millennials within the cities — are novices in larger financial transactions and prefer a brick-and-mortar location with face-to-face interaction. This realization transformed the company’s outreach. Segment customers for meaningful targeting Begin by determining the customer segments to be most prized. To clearly identify them, be certain of what your customers and potential customers want. Listen to the “voice of customer.” Do this through collecting qualitative and quantitative data, which entails both active and passive data. Through analysis of the entirety of the data, you can develop true data-driven customer segments to leverage on your website, social media and digital channels that use automated tools for acquisition.

To collect qualitative data, conduct in-depth interviews based on design thinking to achieve empathy with your customers, understanding their motivations and even their feelings. Ultimately, you want to answer these questions: What do your customers look to you to provide to them? What value do they want to acquire, and what will they exchange for that value? After getting answers to these questions, layer in quantitative data.

The most common method for collecting quantitative data is by surveying. It is tempting to issue a brief, easy-to-respond-to survey, but the most useful data comes from a comprehensive survey with numerous in-depth questions. The request to respondents to dedicate significant time should be accompanied by an incentive of some kind.

The collection of qualitative and quantitative data will encompass the combination of active and passive data with active data gathered through interviews and surveys, and passive data gathered at every customer touchpoint.

Based primarily on behaviors and desired values — e.g., convenience, security and personal service — you’ll establish customer segments founded on much more than simple demographic data points such as age or geographic location.

Map the journey for directing investments With solid knowledge of how your customers are segmented, move to defining what they want across the stages of engagement. Then create your customers’ journey maps.

Customer journey maps should go beyond visual depictions of a path a customer segment takes. They should talk about what customers in the segment want to gain at each stage — awareness, consideration, decision, retention and advocacy. What are their desires and pain points, and what is fulfilling (or not)? Have they moved from learning about your company to researching and comparing you against competitors, becoming a customer and possibly a loyal advocate?

Most importantly, a customer journey map defines moments of truth. These are inflection points that are likely to lead to customer loyalty. It might be the first time they return a product or register a complaint, open a product or receive a service.

Reach customers with pertinent channels, content and initiatives Segments identified and journeys mapped, you can select the right ways to engage with your customers.

You can plan content marketing to connect on a transactional and an emotional level. You can develop highly valued content to deliver to customers when, where and how they want; focus on favored social media and other channels; make use of expected apps; and offer supportive videos and webcasts.

You can launch initiatives to prompt growth of existing and new customer bases, considering additional products, services and markets; geographic expansion; and cross-selling and upselling.

You can have the right people and culture in place so that each employee comes to work every day aware of the company’s ambitions, its choice of customer segments to be successful with and the journey for these customers.

To accelerate your company growth and keep it growing, make customer acquisition the central purpose. Know your customers well, and they’ll be the means to getting to where you want to go.


Agnes SauvageAgnes Sauvage
Managing Director, Strategy and Transformation
T +1 425 214 8626

Zak PierceZak Pierce
Managing Director, Strategy and Transformation
T +1 215 376 6000

Luke EkhoffLuke Ekhoff
Senior Manager, Strategy and Transformation
T +1 425 214 9861