Customer insight, CRM and innovation

Customer insight, CRM and innovation

I was really interested to read David Armano’s post about a Bain survey of top executives.
He reports just over half of executives believe that insufficient consumer insight is hindering their performance. In response to this he notes:

Executive anxieties about losing touch with their customers is driving higher and higher usage of customer tools such as CRM and segmentation. These tools have moved from below average use to second and third place, respectively, in the 10 years since Bain has included them in the survey.

The interesting thing here for me is that the focus is on tools that companies believe will help them to address their customers’ or prospects’ needs more effectively.
John Dodds goes further in his post, making some very valid points about traditional marketing approaches and concluding that CRM isn’t really a solution:

CRM is all about reports, efficiency and CRM software, it’s not about the customer. And that’s a problem.

But really understanding your customers or prospects is only a small part of the picture. Genuine product or marketing innovation is vital to satisfying existing demands or generating new pockets of unanticipated demand.
If I were one of the execs interviewed by Bain I’d be thinking about how I could foster an internal culture of innovation and risk-taking – without that customer insight won’t generate much value by itself.
While marketing and PR quite rightly look externally, sometimes we lose sight of the internal workings that are necessary to deliver business growth.


I work with technology-centric businesses as an interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for scaling technology businesses and I write a newsletter called Build for leaders who are building brilliant companies.