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Making Friends with the Marketing Team


Who is My Customer? Technique #1

Experienced business analysis practitioners like me have all very likely worked on an effort just to find out, most likely too late, that the most important stakeholder may have been overlooked. I remember implementing a new billing system, and once it was all in place, the director of accounts receivable was knocking on my boss’ door, demanding to know why, all of the sudden, customers were questioning their bills. The boss had the team’s back, and things worked out well in the end, but for a few tense days, our AR team was frantically busy, and we were embarrassed. Although we had developed a very nice-looking final bill, it was very different from what the consumer receiving the bill was familiar with – the customer who actually paid the bill. What happened? We missed what has become my number one technique for identifying the customer!



Make Friends with Marketing

I have discovered that, for me, the first, best, and easiest way to identify my customer, especially in today’s digital world, is to make friends with the marketing team. Why? Come closer, and I’ll tell you the secret: marketing’s primary job is to know the customer, they’ve probably already done your work for you, and you can steal from them! OK, maybe “steal” is a strong word. Let’s call it…collaborate.

“Collaboration” is certainly a big buzzword these days, particularly in organizations promoting agile ways of working and breaking down silos in order to become more efficient and quicker-to-market to get ahead of their competition. And who are they competing for? Customers! And who’s on the front line of bringing in and retaining customers? Marketing! And they are probably amazing at their jobs – they have likely gone to school for years studying the art and science of marketing. They definitely have experience applying their skills in your organization. You can save yourself a lot of time by getting to know them. If they don’t have all the information you need already, chances are they will have a deep interest in what you’re working on and would love the chance to collaborate with you.

I recently worked on a project at a major retailer, where we [analysts in IT] needed to understand particular customers using particular services provided in our stores. We sat down to consider who those customers were and spent a couple of months literally going out into the stores and interviewing customers on-site. One of our team members happened to hear a presentation by someone in marketing that essentially was attempting to do the same thing. And although their ultimate goal was different, the means to the end was the same: understand the needs of the customer in order to deliver to them effectively. What happened next was a thing of beauty – we teamed up!

And they were happy to share – they had loads of research and data, elaborate personas that put ours to shame, and regular focus sessions with real customers that we were able to tap into. We were also happy to share – we had a lot of experience in digital products as well as deep understanding of one-off systems operating in our stores that they had yet to dig into. By collaborating with Marketing, we streamlined what could have been a very drawn-out process, as well we made sure we didn’t miss anyone.

Thinking back to that day when we missed our billing customer, I deeply regret not taking the few minutes necessary to have a conversation with someone in marketing about what they might already know. If they had information to share, it would have saved that big snafu. If they didn’t, well, at least they would have been alerted that change was coming and had the opportunity to use their expertise with the customers to make it a success.

Think about something that you’re working on today. Consider whether you are truly addressing the need of the very end consumer of your product or service. If you can’t honestly say yes, it’s probably worth meeting up with a counterpart who performs the marketing function in your organization. At best, you’ll be well on the way to delighting your customer. At worst, you have the chance to make a new friend.

Learn more about collaborating to effectively execute analysis related work to achieve better business outcomes with IIBA’s new Business Data Analytics practice and Certification in Business Data Analytics (IIBA® - CBDA)