Editor’s Notes: Proof in Marketing
When I first came out of college, I was working with a headhunter recruiting company that decided to open a career website. It was in Holland, where the company was based, and it would have been the first Monster.com-style career website in that country. We partnered with a marketing/IT combo firm to implement the site and help us craft its message. We had slick designs, a reasonably good—but untested—product and more hotshot marketing ideas than you could shake a tulip at.
We failed. Miserably.
Our email marketing strategies amounted to spam, we couldn't make our customers—firms looking for qualified applicants—or the job seekers happy, and venture capitalists didn't see fit to hurl herring at us, let alone funding.
I've never worked so hard and failed at anything in my life, and for a long time I had no idea why. But the fact is, we didn't test. We had no proof any of our ideas held water. And we couldn't deliver what users on either side of the board needed because we didn't understand the customer at anything deeper than handshake depth. Without proof, we didn't know what we were doing.
I was often reminded of that time when recently talking to Doug Stein and Ernan Roman for our cover story about how HMS National has implemented in-depth customer interviews as part of its marketing strategy, seeking to get to know its customers at a granular level using "voice-of-the-customer" marketing (VOC). Roman's consulting firm practices VOC, and he lays out a case for it in his new book with the same title, "Voice-of-the-Customer Marketing." Marketers who use customer research, extensive direct testing or other methods of proving what they think they know about consumers are at a huge advantage in any marketplace, and I've seen that first hand.