Customer Insight Strategies

Our guest this week is a successful business leader with international experience. Voted Number One Woman in Tech, Dr. Christine Bailey joins us to discuss topics from her new book, Customer Insight Strategies. Christine provides a practical framework for leveraging four types of data to help make marketing more remarkable, with case studies drawn from B2B and B2C brands. Christine offers advice for women working in martech, and explains why we all need to feed our brains!

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Christine Bailey: You need to learn how to build new habits and use insights across every area of marketing, right from, creating the mission statement to creating content, creating segments, customer acquisition, retention, development, social – it really does encompass absolutely every area of marketing.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer published in January revealed an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions around the world. After a year of unprecedented turbulence, including the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crises, and the global outcry over systemic racism, Edelman’s report characterizes our present moment as a trust crisis. While governments and the media may be failing them, consumers have high expectations of businesses to address and solve today’s challenges.

As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of IN CLEAR FOCUS, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital products, services, and work-related technologies, but digital transactions create massive amounts of data. Software company Domo estimates that up to 83% of marketers are data blind due to the sheer volume of information digital channels generate. And the greater adoption of digital channels also challenges marketers to think about how the digital customer experience can be humanized. As the Edelman report reminds us, trust is at an all-time low. So how do you make sure that your messaging is really aligned with today’s consumers’ values and sentiments?

Our guest today believes that companies who want to win in the new normal economy need to be able to leverage deep customer insights and adapt their strategies accordingly. Dr. Christine Bailey is the founder of Sophia Marketing, which offers strategic marketing services to startups and scale-ups in the technology and fintech sectors. Previously, Christine was Chief Marketing Officer and Managing Director for the UK and Ireland with Valitor, a European payment solutions company. Christine has extensive experience in B2B marketing in technology and payments, including leading European marketing functions for Hewlett Packard and Cisco Systems. A respected thought leader and motivational speaker with two TEDx talks, she’s been voted Number One Woman in Tech by B2B Marketing and named one of “150 Women B2B Thought Leaders You Should Follow in 2021” by Thinkers360.

Christine has a doctorate in customer insight from Cranfield School of Management and serves on several advisory boards. And Christine is the author of the book entitled Customer Insight Strategies: How to Understand Your Audience and Create Remarkable Marketing. To talk about the book and how businesses can leverage customer insight, Christine is joining us from her home office in Surrey, England, Christine, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Christine Bailey: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Adrian Tennant: So Christine, what prompted you to write this book?

Christine Bailey: Well, Professor Moira Clark, who was a friend of mine, suggested doing a doctorate back in 2004. And that really sparked my passion for the topic of customer insight. And writing a book has always been on my bucket list and I fully intended to write one up when I published my doctorate back in 2008, but life had other plans at the time. But 12 years later, and I like to think this is a much better book, not least because customer insight is more mainstream now than it was in 2008. But I interviewed 33 marketing practitioners and academics from around the world who are all experts in their field. They generously shared their opinions and case studies, and it was really important to me that this was a book for practitioners by practitioners.

Adrian Tennant: Well, the title of the book is a clue. You believe that remarkable marketing is becoming increasingly elusive. So Christine, why does marketing need to be remarkable?

Christine Bailey: Well, I think as marketers, we all want to create extraordinary and memorable marketing, but as you said, remarkable marketing is becoming increasingly elusive. Even before COVID hit, we were facing hyper-informed digital customers, tightening budgets, quarterly targets, stifling regulations, and it’s difficult to stop, think, and consider what do we need to be doing differently to get to that extraordinary place. We are in the intelligent era, as you said in your intro: deep customer insight needs to inform every move, and no more so than now when the world is constantly changing and what customers thought yesterday might not be what they thought today, let alone last year. And you know, we’ve learned that the hard way with COVID that customer behavior has changed so massively, we need to be constantly interpreting customer insights at an extraordinarily rapid pace. And if you want to get into the habit of using customer insights to drive your marketing, it’s not just something you could do once. You need to learn how to build new habits and this book aims to help people understand how they can use insights literally across every area of marketing, right from creating the mission statement to, creating content, creating segments, customer acquisition, retention, development, social – it really does encompass absolutely every area of marketing.

Adrian Tennant: Christine, what’s your definition of customer insight?

Christine Bailey: Well customer insight results when you have analysis and interpretation of market, competitor, and customer data, behavior, and feedback. So the aim is to equip yourself with nuggets of information that will help you serve your customers better. They might entail a deep understanding of your customer’s beliefs, needs, and their relationship with your brand, as well as the motivations – that’s really key – underlying their buyer behavior.

Adrian Tennant: What characterizes an actionable insight?

Christine Bailey: Good question. So the insight that’s generated needs to result in direct, clear, and meaningful action. Everybody’s absolutely drowning in data. In your intro, you mentioned 83 percent of marketers being data blind due to the sheer volume of data and analytics. So for insights to be actionable, they should tell you something new, rather than just confirming your existing knowledge. You can pretty much find a statistic for anything if you want to just prove your point. But the true insight is a finding that contradicts your knowledge. It might confirm or deny a suspicion that you have, but you’re not actually sure. Or it quantifies the importance of a vast piece of insight. So then an actionable insight can then either lead to adaptation or action within the organization or confirm that in fact, no action is required, but the key is it must be something new.

Adrian Tennant: Many listeners will already be familiar with the ways in which primary and secondary research are used to inform business-to-consumer advertising, but in business-to-business marketing practice, where does customer insight typically originate?

Christine Bailey: Well in my Doctorate, I found that organizations were collecting data across five main areas: competitors, customers, markets, employees, and channel partners. That was back in 2008. When I was writing the book now, I found that actually, the categories are the same today, but there are a few crucial differences, you know, how the world has evolved since 2008. So the first one is that two-thirds of the buying journey now happens online. Consequently, we’ve just got absolutely enormous volumes of digital footprint data. So how do we interpret that? The second key difference is that with more than 400 million people speaking to Siri and 500 million speaking to Google Assistant, we know that the world of typing and reading is transitioning to speaking and listening. So how do we capture that data? And finally, we can’t deny the importance and the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning that’s being used more and more in marketing.

Adrian Tennant: How similar or different are the tools a researcher might use when compiling data for B2B marketing versus B2C?

Christine Bailey: I wouldn’t say that that naturally defines the different tools that you use. I think that the tools are pretty much the same, the research tools or the research methods are available. The sample sizes are probably going to differ. You typically have a much bigger sample size in B2C than you do in B2B, but it really depends what it is you’re trying to achieve and the best research method to achieve that.

Adrian Tennant: In Customer Insight Strategies, you describe in detail four types of insight that marketers should prioritize as they review internal and external sources of data. These are our market predictions, customer segments, propensity models, and customer analytics. Christine, what makes these four types of insights so useful in a business-to-business context?

Christine Bailey: So if I start with the first one market predictions. We’ve always used data to identify market sizes and opportunities, and that’s traditionally been the domain of market research. But now what we’ve got is actual customer data to help make predictions, not just about the total market size and the current market share, but about their sales potential and the trends and the issues likely to affect their ability to achieve this potential. So that can really help drive strategic decisions about what markets to operate in and what products to develop. So rather than just designing great products and then deciding whom to sell them to you can do it the other way around.

Adrian Tennant: The second type is customer segments.

Christine Bailey: I really think you can’t create segments without customer insight. your segmentation strategy is going to depend a lot on the type of business that you are and whether you’re in B2C or B2B. So in B2C, you’ve probably segmented using, demographics like affluence, and life-stage, attitudes, buyer behavior, geography, customer need. Whereas in B2B, you’re more likely to segment according to the value of the customer, the size of the company, the type of company, the vertical sector, the type of relationship. But regardless of whether it’s B2B or B2C, segmentation has evolved dramatically, and the days of “spray and pray” marketing a really long gone. So you need to be using digital footprint data, psychological profiling, customer journeys, intent data. And it’s now possible to gain deep insight into your customer’s behavior, wants, and needs. And that’s vital in order to arrange them into distinct segments and target them with personalized messaging, digital advertising content, et cetera.


Adrian Tennant: Christine, can you explain propensity models?

Christine Bailey: Typically, propensity models will help you predict the behavior of your customer base. So you’ve identified the segments. How can you then predict the behavior? For example, the likelihood that a customer will respond to an offer, make a purchase, or churn, and they can also be used to build profiles of typical customers. So you can go and identified a potential customers who’ve got a similar profile. And you can use them on their own, or you can use them in conjunction with other models and some companies use literally thousands of models – it can get very complex. So for example, a mobile phone company might predict which customers are going to churn or which are receptive to having an upgrade. Or you could use them together. So which customers are likely to churn, but actually aren’t likely to be receptive to an upgrade offer. You could also use them to predict next best action to take with the customer. So once they’ve done one thing, what’s the next best thing to offer them?

Adrian Tennant: And the fourth item on your list is customer analytics. Why is that so important?

Christine Bailey: We know how expensive it is to acquire a customer in the first place it’s anything between five and 25 times more expensive to acquire a customer than develop them and retain them. So let’s do a good job of really understanding the customers that we’ve already got, because they can also be a good proxy to figuring out, “okay, we’ve got these customers, they look like this. Let’s go and find some more of them.” Yeah, all sorts of things you can do with customer analytics, but that’s the short version of those four different types.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to bigeye.agency/gender.  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Dr. Christine Bailey, the founder of Sophia Marketing and author of Customer Insight Strategies: How to Understand Your Audience and Create Remarkable Marketing. As an audience-focused agency, we’re big proponents of Buyer Personas, so I was delighted to see you describe persona creation in the section on segmentation. In one of the case studies, you describe a mixed-methods approach for Conduent, a provider of digital platforms for businesses and governments. One thing that stood out to me was the way in which the personas were validated and had psychological profiling data appended to them. Could you explain that to us?

Christine Bailey: Yeah, Conduent used three different methods to create their Personas. So the first thing they did was a survey of all their salespeople who obviously know their customers pretty well. Then they did a survey of industries with external industry subject matter experts. And then they did some desk research and then psychological profiling was the last thing that they did. And there are a number of tools which run across social media, which can be used to understand the Persona of an individual. There are lots of different tools, they use one called DISC: that’s an acronym for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. And they use that to understand the psychology of the Personas they created. And what this does is helps you to figure out how to communicate with people using the right words and the phrases that will work for them. And then they also run that tool against real people on LinkedIn who matched their Personas and this produced then these personality graphs for each individual, which they could then apply to the personas. And just for a bit of fun, he ran the DISC tool on me – and you can run it on yourself and you can also run it on somebody that you want to approach in a business development perspective – and the tool will tell you, based on their psychological profile, this is the best way to interact with them. And I’d have to say it was scarily accurate.

Adrian Tennant: I love that. That’s very ingenious. Christine, you also led the development of personas at Valitor. How do they ultimately inform your account-based marketing strategy?

Christine Bailey: Well, we did a strategic insights study, which was a four-stage process. First of all, it was interviewing internal stakeholders, then it was doing analysis of competitors’ messaging. Then we talked to payments experts, and then we did end customer interviews. And after step three – so after we’d spoken to the industry experts – we created Personas based on job roles. But in actual fact, after stage four, which was the customer interviews, we realized that job roles weren’t actually the best identifier and it was far more important to know how advanced companies were in their use of payments. So in actual fact, we ended up with three typologies: customers who had low payment adoption, medium payment adoption, and high payment adoption. And what this really helped us with was our messaging and our segmentation strategy. So we created an ICP: an Ideal Customer Profile. We created a messaging house. We created the criteria for our target account program, and that also helped us to buy the right customer data and also to get our keywords right.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s talk about branding and the role that customer insight can play here. Ogilvy first started building brands in 1948. Back then, as you write in your book, and I quote, “Branding was about building awareness and guaranteeing quality. And marketing was about selling. Fast-forward to today and we’re in the intelligent era where the role of marketing is to uncover the deepest customer insights and action them. And the challenge for branding is to find highly personal and highly relevant roles in individual’s lives,” end quote. Christine, could you briefly explain the difference between a master brand strategy versus a house of brands?

Christine Bailey: Yes So I’m going to start with a house of brands actually. And that’s where a company will market a range of separate brand names. And this is particularly common in fast-moving consumer goods and in retail. So as an example, the pen brand Sharpie. I’m sure everybody’s familiar with Sharpies. That’s a much better-known brand than and I bet you probably can’t even tell me who makes Sharpies it’s actually, the corporate brand is Sanford, but that’s not what people are familiar with. Whereas in a master brand strategy, the company itself is the brand and its subsidiaries’ products or services become subsets of the main brand, like HSBC Bank, for example. Actually, there’s a third, hybrid model, which is often when a company has got offerings for both consumer and business customers. So for example, Microsoft is the master brand, but it still retains separate brands for things like Skype and Xbox, and Instagram, which better suit consumer taste. Or you can have a hybrid model when you’re on a journey to a master brand strategy, which is what we did at Valitor. So you can say, “Company is part of the X Group” or, like we did, “A Valitor Company”, for example.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways can marketers use customer insight most effectively to develop and support brand strategy?

Christine Bailey: Successful branding today is all about having a clear position, that North Star, that purpose. And then you’ll be able to build trust, create these immersive, innovative, personally engaging experiences and customer journeys in a human way. And lots of research points to the fact that the most successful companies are the ones that have a clear vision and a unique point of view. In order to get that, branding has to be rooted in insight. Because without insight, you won’t have understanding. Without understanding, you won’t be able to build compelling and personal storytelling that connects with your customer and communicates your vision. So in order to build your story, you need a crystal clear understanding of what your customer is trying to do or what they care about. And that’s going to help you create your “why”, your purpose.

Adrian Tennant: One of the things I really enjoyed about your book is that it not only explains how customer insight is used in the marketing process but also offers case studies that reflect specific challenges in which customer insight was central to informing strategic solutions. Christine, do you have a couple of favorite examples that you’d like to share?

Christine Bailey: Ah, you see, that’s like asking someone to pick their favorite child! A couple of my favorite examples, where there was one case study from a former colleague of mine, Andrew Kane, who’s the managing director of a branding agency called Sedgwick Richardson – he’s based in Hong Kong. And one of his customers was a very well-known Chinese property developer. They were doing a mixed development and they wanted to give something back to the city and they did that in a really innovative way, and it’s what Mark Schaefer talks about in his Marketing Rebellion book of being “of the city, not in the city.” So they use customer insights to really understand what the people of that city wanted. And they created these pods around the development for local entrepreneurs to showcase their talent. And I think it was just a brilliant use of customer insights. Another favorite example – I’m going to have to pick one from Cisco because Cisco does so many amazing things with customer insight. And I probably have to pick a couple of examples. They have an amazing program of next best action to really take away from thinking, “this is the campaign or the tactic I’d like to deploy. Who should I send my campaign to?” to thinking the other way around to “okay, that customer has done this. What’s the next best action to take with that customer?” And I’m going to squeeze in another one from Cisco, which is when they were building the website for small customers, they had some customers behind a screen, and they showed them the new website and they gave them some tasks, and watch how they navigated through the website. And the journeys that people took through the website to complete the task were completely different from what they’d anticipated. And the things that they cared about were again, different from what they’d anticipated. And also interesting to see where people are actually looking where their eye gaze is, as opposed to where they’re actually clicking their mouse.

Adrian Tennant: Christine, in your book’s Prologue, you advise readers to “feed” their brains. Why is that so critical for marketers?

Christine Bailey: Well, as a marketer, you will be extremely busy! Your days will be full. Your task list will be long. So how do you get to that square in the Eisenhower Box, which is “important, but not urgent”, because we all tend to focus on the urgent, but not important task. So how do we break free of our comfort zone? How do we get our brains into that place? Where we can get to the important, but not urgent tasks? And “feed your brain” is one of those techniques because the brain is a muscle. You know, in order to get stronger, you need to train it. And our brains are capable of continual change. But in order to achieve this, they need to be continually challenged. And I’d normally recommend choosing something you wouldn’t normally do. So if you normally read, then try a podcast. Or it could be, climbing a mountain or taking up a different sport, but just doing something a bit different that will help you get out of your comfort zone.

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you identify some of the organizational challenges and skill shortages that most commonly hold companies back. You also say that there’s never been a more exciting or difficult time to be in marketing. What do you think should be marketers’  top priorities when it comes to developing customer insight capabilities?

Christine Bailey: I think there are probably three things I’d recommend. And the first one is every marketer needs to become more data competent, you know, it’s no longer something that should be left to the data scientists and the democratization of analytics tools, and the technology means that any marketer can get insights and analytics at the click of a button. It’s lazy just to think that you can leave that to the data scientists, everybody needs to be becoming more data competent. The second thing I would say is always consider the problem you’re trying to solve, or the question you want to ask before deciding on what technology you’re going to use. There are 8,000 different types of marketing technologies according to Scott Brinker. Don’t get sucked into the hype of the technology. Really think about what problem it is you’re trying to solve. And the third thing I would say is be curious. Keep asking questions, keep experimenting. If something doesn’t seem right, ask more questions. I laugh myself when I sometimes I still listen to my sat nav on my GPS and it’s telling me to go away and I’m thinking, “That’s not the right way.” And I follow it anyway! You know, why do you do that? Listen to your intuition. So if the data is telling you something unusual, you know, for goodness sake, ask some more questions, don’t just blindly assume what your data’s telling you.

Adrian Tennant: Christine, you were voted Number One Woman in Tech by B2B Marketing. And I know you’ve been very involved with various special interest groups within the industry.  Are you optimistic that women can break that glass ceiling that seems to exist in the marketing technology field?

Christine Bailey: Well, I’m an optimist, so of course, I’m always going to be optimistic, but I’m not going to say that it’s easy. I’d strongly recommend finding your tribe. There’s nothing more powerful than women supporting other women. And, you know, there’s plenty of networks that you can find of like-minded women. And I’m an advisor on the European Women in Payments network, for example, but there are lots of fantastic networks for women. I’d also recommend getting a mentor or a sponsor. Somebody who’s going to be your champion. I used to lead Connected Women globally for Cisco, and we used to run a conference to celebrate International Women’s Day. And the theme this year was “choose to challenge” – because with challenge comes change. And if challenging others feels too confrontational, then a great place to start is by challenging yourself. Ask a different question. Instead of “who’s going to let me?” ask, “who’s going to stop me?” And don’t ask permission, beg forgiveness. And try and see things from a different perspective. I have a story of when my daughter was four years old and she was in the nursery. And I arrived to collect her in the evening and the nursery Principal took me aside and she said, “just thought, you’d like to know that we asked all the children what they’d like to be when they grow up. most people said they wanted to be a doctor or a nurse or a fireman.” And I said, “well, what did my daughter say?” And she said, “I want to be in charge!” And I thought, “yes, go girl! Different perspective. Don’t go with the conventional!” Challenge ourselves to have that different perspective.

Adrian Tennant: That’s great. In a profession that is increasingly reliant upon technology. How do you think the role of the marketer will evolve over the next few years?

Christine Bailey: Well, there’s no denying the importance of technology to marketing. And as I said earlier, it’s very important that we become more data competent. And if we’re going to succeed, we need to find ways to leverage this ever-increasing mountain of technology at our disposal. And organizations definitely need people who know how to use technologies in their teams and how to integrate them with existing tools and processes. And we’ve got to move away from these data silos and really have integrated data and a single view of the customer, but this is not something to be afraid of. And it actually frees up marketers to be creative. As I said earlier, that the democratization of these tools make them affordable and very usable. So everybody can have these simple insights at the click of a button and we can use that time to be more creative. And the other big benefit is that artificial intelligence and machine learning take the guesswork out of marketing. Because let’s face it, we’re always experimenting. So it’s providing that evidence and the data and the insights so that we can make marketing more scientific, more credible, more foolproof.

Adrian Tennant: Christine away from work, what inspires you? Are you a reader, a podcast listener, a music fan?

Christine Bailey: I know we’re doing a podcast here, but I’ll have to be honest, I’ve always been an avid reader and I still prefer a physical book to a Kindle. But having said that it’s not just books. I have a routine in the morning: I wake up, I get myself a cup of tea – because I’m very British – and I sit in bed and I’ll read the news and I’ll look at articles on my phone and I’ll get that bit of inspiration. And you know, I’ve got a teenage daughter now. She constantly inspires me. I love hearing her opinion, her views on the world, watching how she interacts with technology, how she communicates with her friends. We both love to travel. Obviously, I’ve never traveled so little in my entire life in the last 30 years of I’ve done less travel than in the last year. We’re a very musical household, my daughter plays lots of different instruments. I used to be really good at the piano, but I’m kind of reteaching myself during lockdown. And I also love to jive dance. And I love being outside.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about you, Sophia Marketing, your TEDx talks, or your book, Customer Insight Strategies, where can they find you?

Christine Bailey: Well, probably the best place to find everything is on LinkedIn. I’m. Dr. Christine Bailey on LinkedIn. And you can find links from there to my TEDx talks and to my book. You can also find me on Twitter. My handle is @ChristineBailey. And my company website is Sophia Marketing, spelled SophiaMarketing.co.uk.


Adrian Tennant:
Christine. Thank you very much for being our guest this week on, IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Christine Bailey: You’re welcome. Thanks for asking. 

Adrian Tennant: Next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Mark Van Streefkerk: Many people who identify as non-binary express time and time again their frustration with being misgendered. When somebody comes out to you and they tell you what their pronouns are, it’s vitally important that you believe them, because it is a really big thing to talk about who you are and have that be accepted.Adrian Tennant: That’s a conversation about gendered language, pronouns, non-binary and transgender identities in our series of podcasts exploring topics highlighted in Bigeye’s national study, GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY. That’s next week. Thanks to my guest this week, Dr. Christine Bailey. You’ll find a transcript of our conversation on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under insights. Just click on the button marked podcast. And if you’d like to ask about something you heard, have suggestions for a guest, or a topic you’d like us to cover, please email us at inclearfocus@bigeyeagency.com. We’d love to hear from you. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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