From Understanding to Action

Swaddling, David C.; Miller, Charles
July 2004
Marketing Management;Jul/Aug2004, Vol. 13 Issue 4, p31
This article examines the importance of understanding customers and using that knowledge to competitive advantage. Gaining a good understanding of customers means learning as much as possible about how they define and perceive value when they choose between offerings. The emphasis here is on perceived value because that is what matters most. In some cases, that value is defined primarily as a low price, but such cases are very few. Usually, customers consider a complex set of desired outcomes that they are seeking to attain in some optimal way by choosing from among their available alternatives. The path to understanding customers involves market research. The experience of executives with market research typically has involved spending a lot of money and waiting for several months to get a report full of statistics that are of little use. However, the success of every business rests on how prospects and customers perceive the value it delivers, and there is no better way to learn about those perceptions than by conducting effective market research. The effective way to conduct a market research is to ask the right people the right questions in the right way. The right people to ask are a truly representative sample of a carefully defined market. The right way to ask the questions is by expertly using the research method that is most appropriate in the circumstances. The right questions to ask are those that go directly to the value factors that enter into the buying decision-making process of the prospects.


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