Let Your Customers Inspire Your Next Great Idea

by Frederic Kalinke, Managing Director of Amigo

Coming up with good ideas is the most important part of every marketer’s job. It’s also the most difficult. Frederic Kalinke, Managing Director of Amigo Technology, explains why you should let your customers’ intelligence, not an artificial one, inspire your next great idea. You won’t be able to get artificial intelligence to do it for you any time soon, but you can get your customers to do it today.

Why You Still Need Good Ideas

The promise of digital marketing is often misunderstood. Most of us are too easily excited about the possibilities of ever more detailed customer data, more sophisticated analytics and, increasingly, artificial intelligence. While data science will continue to transform marketing even more dramatically than it already has, what it won’t do is allow you to get away with not thinking. For example, the frequent refrain from supposedly ‘data-driven’ marketers that ‘in the face of the cold, hard data, your opinion doesn’t matter’ is not only misguided but betrays a fatal misunderstanding of statistical analysis.

A great deal of judgment is required when working with marketing data. You need to define which data you will collect, how and when you will do so, how you will evaluate it, how different data points relate to each other, and so on. Given that a wild goose chase delivers a pretty poor ROI, you’re better off viewing data science as a route to having much better opinions, than to a world where the machines can do all your thinking for you.

Conversations about AI are rife with mis-characterisations. It’s an exciting field of technology that will likely be used to disrupt a whole tranche of industries, but not in the way many seem to expect.

Building an AI more often than not means defining a set of useful algorithms. These are far from free of ‘human bias,’ as anyone who has read Harvard mathematician Cathy O’Neil’s award-winning book, Weapons of Math Destruction, will know. Every AI is governed by the assumptions and arguments of its creators.

Even the most well-known AI, IBM’s Watson, is not a single, omnipotent technology. At the commercial level, it is a set of APIs and SaaS products. Complex (and therefore useful) AI construction still requires bespoke programming, rather than the out-of-the-box application of a generic bot.

AI and data science are an extension of our critical thought, rather than a replacement. While the best computers have been beating the best humans at Chess since 1997, the best computers are still routinely trounced by combined human and computer teams.

As data science and artificial intelligence become more important in marketing, the individual marketer’s most important responsibility will remain the same as it always has been, to come up with good ideas.

How To Have Good Ideas

The most disruptive thing you can do as a marketer today is to listen to your customers. You can come up with great new ideas by harnessing not artificial intelligence but your customers’ intelligence.

Take Direct Line, for example. Initially, like all major insurers, Direct Line had been struggling with the disruption of the industry by new technologies like price comparison sites. They successfully reinvigorated their entire brand around the concept of ‘the fixer,’ complete with a TV ad starring Harvey Keitel.

The firm is now in rude health, with a growing market share, in large part because of a marketing strategy inspired by their customers. Insurance customers do not just want the lowest price, they want the reassurance that someone is going to fix their problem.

Direct Line’s customers inspired the successful rebrand. Rather than trying to compete with price comparison sites by jumping on the new tech bandwagon, Direct Line simply did a better job of the fundamentals of marketing.

Another great example is PensionBee, a pensions provider that is revolutionising one of the economy’s most important sectors. The brand doesn’t just listen to its customers, it uses them in its advertising campaigns.

As VP of Marketing Jasper Martens puts it, “The only way for a financial brand to grow is to gain trust from its customers. We involve customers in building our product, selecting new plans, and we meet them for a coffee where they live and work.” After all, who knows your brand’s selling points better than the people who have just been sold them?

PensionBee not only displays positive interactions between itself and the customers on its website, but it also uses Amigo to get closer to its customers via content marketing and referral marketing campaigns.

From these initiatives, Pensionbee gains “insight into how our audience engages and shares content with their friends and network,” as Martens explains. “Previously we were able to track interactions with our prospects once they were known in our database. Going one step back before they start to sign up is crucial because it changes the type of content we produce to serve prospects at that stage of their journey.”

The data from their content marketing prompted PensionBee to realise the power of customers sharing a brand with their friends and run a referral marketing campaign, with incentives for both advocates and their friends.

Customers can recommend PensionBee through social media shares with embedded user-generated content, which enables PensionBee’s customers to articulate the brand’s message on its behalf. Again, the customers are the messengers.

Those user-generated recommendations represent valuable data too. The PensionBee team can see what its customers are saying about it at the point of referral, a moment of highly-focussed positive consideration. In fact, it can even use algorithmic text analysis to identify frequently used terms and evaluate sentiment.

That marriage of customer and artificial intelligence could be how you too come up with your next great idea.