Close this search box.


Do you really know your customers? The unparalleled value of genuine customer insights

A common confusion, especially in B2B, is mixing up what customers buy from you with what customers really want and need from you. They are NOT the same things.

Uncovering and acting on the difference is the responsibility of the whole company, and in particular, of the management team, the Salesforce and the marketing department. Acknowledging the difference is critical for growth, strategy and not least for focusing on research and development ie., distinguishing between what they can develop and what they should develop.

There are many ways of determining what your customers want and need from you and the insights that drive them. Standard, well-conducted and well-curated qualitative and quantitative research with your market –through dialogue, formal interviews, surveys, online community discussions — is irreplaceable. 

Some companies are better at initiating and valuing customer research than others; nor is there a guarantee that everyone in every company will agree on the results or implications of the customer outreach.

Think-feel-act exercise:

One way to bring everybody to the table on these issues is a (seemingly) simple exercise: Think-Feel-Act.

  • What do your customers think and feel about your company today? How do they act today?

  • In the near future, how do you want them to think and feel about your company?  How do you want them to act?


  • “Think” is a rational dimension, like large, or global or innovative; it’s what people know about you, and it can be inaccurate or untrue, but still it is what people “think”. 
  • What you “feel” is emotional – they like you, they trust you, they consider you an important company in the field. Or they feel you can be aloof, or uncaring or lacking customer sensitivity. True or not, it’s what they “feel”.  
  • “Act” is straightforward:  they buy your product, they revert to competition, they recommend you, they want price adjustments. “Act” includes both positive and negative movements.

insights chart on branding

In preparation for the exercise, first ask yourselves:

Who are our primary audiences? Secondary audiences? Tertiary audiences? 

Usually there is agreement to these rankings, but not universally. Audiences can even be forgotten. For example, tech-driven companies often imagine their only audiences are tech departments in the companies they sell to. Frequently they underestimate the importance of selling to marketing departments, who will need to communicate about the tech, or to non-tech management teams, who must approve a purchase. 

Sometimes regulators are left off the radar scope. Sometimes


, like the media, are not considered or cultivated. Make sure as a first step, you consider all your audiences. And rank them in order of importance to the company in terms of revenue, but also in terms of impact on the sales or hiring process, competitive advantage or future growth.

Proceed to the exercise: today

Now you’re ready to proceed. For your top three audiences (or more if you need), based on all you know about them: what do they think and feel today? How do they act? Even if you’re a new company and haven’t yet started to market, the lack of connection with your audiences is an important acknowledgment.

Proceed to tomorrow:

Once you have profiled your top three audiences for their think-feel-act today, proceed to the all-important projections for what you want them to think-feel-act tomorrow. By tomorrow, we mean usually sometime in the next year or two. Think more near-term.

So how did you do?  

  • Can you define what you want each audience to do in regards to your company in the coming 12-24 months? 
  • Are the shifts large or small? 
  • Were you surprised by anything you uncovered?
  • Were you able to do the exercise equally well for all three of your top audiences? 
  • Are you thinking ambitiously enough about the future? Too ambitious is useless, not sufficiently ambitious is to miss opportunities. 

Only you and your team can decide.

Typically, shifts to the future fall into two categories: either to ride current waves even further or to attempt to fix gaps or negatives in current performance. Every company is different.

Typical kinds of shifts include:  

  • from a good, solid company to a beloved company
  • from a player to THE partner of choice
  • from a tech organisation to a marketing AND tech organisation
  • from a good customer to a loyal customer who prefers us and refers us. 

It is impossible to anticipate every shift for every company, but these samples provide you an idea of where – and how far– the exercise can take you towards development and growth. It is pure strategy.

Not done yet:

Now comes the even more important part. 

For every major shift, what do you have to do to ensure the changes occur? 

At one level, you may see you need to do more customer research to

understand their real connections

to your company: What are their think-feel-act profiles? This would be fine, it is a critical learning. It would quickly demonstrate to your management that more customer work into their insights and motivations is a priority.

Other levels may highlight changes that need to happen across the company—e.g., better customer relationships with your senior management, new marketing programs, faster speed to market, providing new online selling opportunities, more customer-focus, even offering new products and services. 

Here in is an even more substantial pay-off from the exercise: customer insights impacting business planning.

Getting started:

  • As always, we recommend collaborating with a Core Team of colleagues to work through the exercise.
  • Begin by prioritising your audiences, providing rationales for the priorities.
  • Then undertake to complete a think-feel-act today for each, followed by the think-feel-act tomorrow for each.
  • Importantly, complete the exercise by articulating what it will take to make the shift to tomorrow happen, and why.
  • Document and prepare your case with you team to take to the appropriate management to demonstrate your business-building ideas.
  • Understand: the insights you have uncovered are pure business strategy, with implications for the company well beyond marketing alone.  

Get Stacked 2020

Make sure you’re one of 400 B2B leaders, tech marketers and modern marketing heroes at Get Stacked – The B2B Marketing Technology Conference.

Book your ticket now

Get Stacked 2020 logo

Related Articles

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on your website. Read more about cookies policy.