In my view, marketers have one job above all others: to represent the customer inside the business. And to do that they need one quality above all others: courage.

Ketchup bottles

Marketing today has never been more complex. Externally, channels proliferate fast, feedback comes from everywhere, product categories appear and disappear overnight. Inside your organisation you may feel compelled to consult with an ever-widening group of stakeholders to ensure you’re on the right track. But ever since the science of marketing was defined, great marketers have been powered by customer insight, and showed the courage of their convictions based on that.

Represent the customer with passion

Time and again I see marketers becoming bogged down with internal issues, operating in silos and juggling the conflicting desires of numerous internal stakeholders.

That’s why now more than ever it’s crucial that marketers are passionate about customers: understanding who the customer is, what their pains are, how your product/brand can relieve their pains, and how to make their experience with your brand even better.

Use the power of numbers

Investing in quality market research is essential for a bunch of reasons. It helps confirm exactly what pain you remove for your customers and what jobs you do for them. In addition, data helps to make the discussion more objective. It’s no longer “I like red but the CEO likes blue”, it’s “62% of our customers prefer red’’. Non-marketers often react well to solid data like this.

Use third parties

A third party like an agency can be immensely helpful, providing quick competitive analysis, driving research, helping build strong briefs, and backing marketers up in internal discussions. An agency can talk objectively and provide a clear outside perspective helping to represent the customer point of view.

Try not asking

In my experience, senior leaders are just the same as everyone else: if asked a question, they need to give an answer. That includes an opinion on the latest marketing strategy or packaging – but only if they are asked about it. So unless marketing reports to that director – and sometimes even then – try to keep senior leaders’ minds at the 10,000 foot level, where they expect to operate and where they really add value.

Ask better questions, or have courage and ask none at all. The views and signoff of others internally are of course important, but be strategic, and remember that nothing should carry more weight than your customer and their opinion. Too often we hear marketers saying they need to do something to keep their CEO happy, without thinking about how this makes sense for the customer.

It’s frustrating to hear marketers talk about the customer experience, only to then launch something which is clearly not ideal from a customer point of view because it’s been tempered to meet an internal audience’s need or point of view instead.

In one apocryphal Coke story the Marketing Director finds herself in a lift with the CEO and asks him what he thought of the latest marketing campaign. “Terrible” comes the answer. She replies: ‘But it researched really well with our customers!’ To which he says: ‘So you never need to ask me again!’

So as we come back from summer breaks, remember to stay true to what you know about your customer and above all be courageous.