Marketers discuss importance of customer insight

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Chicago—During a panel discussion Thursday at the BMA annual conference, b-to-b marketers shared best practices for gaining and using customer insight and intelligence.

John McDermott, senior director of brand strategy at W.W. Grainger, discussed a program called Grass Roots that was started about three years ago at the provider of facilities maintenance supplies. “Our objective was to go out and talk to our customers to get a more customercentric view of who our customers were across the organization, then bring this insight back into the organization and come out with specific deliverables,” he said.

Grainger created a cross-functional team of about 40 people, which McDermott called a “massive corporate initiative.” Team members went out to visit more than 80 customers, primarily manufacturers, to conduct in-depth research on who the customers are, which segments they represent, why those segments were important to Grainger and what the customers need.

As a result, Grainger developed an interactive application on its Web site that showed manufacturing customers that it understood their needs and how it could provide specific solutions, McDermott said.

Also during the panel discussion, moderator Jason Cordova, director of strategic initiatives at General Electric Co., discussed how customer research is important to his company’s segmentation strategy. “No. 1 is objective setting; it has to be the whole organization, not just marketing,” he said.

Cordova discussed how GE uses field research to gain customer insight and develop segmentation strategies.

“We may do a segmentation process and come back with five segments,” he said. “We know we can’t serve all of them well, so we go through a targeting process where we learn where we can put our resources and focus on those segments that mean the most.”

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