Gary Booker: Customer insight is useless without non-customer insight

Gary Booker recently stepped down as chief marketing officer at Dixons Carphone. Here he shares his lessons from the ladder.

Treat everyone the way you would want to be treated yourself

It’s a simple truth and yet it still surprises me to occasionally find senior leaders who are rude, lack respect or serve their own interests at the cost of others. Enduring long-term success only comes from providing inspiring vision with fair leadership. 

Be open, honest and approachable

Against the unrelenting tide of emails and meetings, it’s more important than ever to make time for people. A team that knows they can speak directly with their most senior executive on any subject, and that this person genuinely cares, is a team that is going to feel a sense of unity and vested interest in the business’ success that extends way beyond mere pay and benefits.  

The biggest win comes from being smarter in what you do and where and how you allocate resources.

Truly understand everything about your customers (and your non-customers)

It’s one thing to have a great insights team and customer feedback, but do you really know and understand your customers?  Their irrationality, their changeability, their real influences? And what about all those people who don’t shop from you or even consider you for their purchasing? Even the most amazing customer insight is useless without non-customer insight, and plans for both. Even if you do intricately understand "what" they think, this must always be followed by "so what?" and "now what?" to turn that insight into clear action.

It’s better, more effective and often easier than you might believe to out-think your competitors rather than out-spend them

Budgets are not getting any bigger, nor is that headcount freeze looking like unfreezing any time soon. And whatever you do, your competitors will likely copy it and eliminate any competitive advantage you might be seeking – sometimes in minutes.

The biggest win comes from being smarter in what you do and where and how you allocate resources. The more you understand your audience better than your competition, the smarter you will be in knowing how to really connect with them.

Map every on- and offline part of the customer journey and understand which touchpoints carry the most weight and emotional significance for your customers. A compelling and creative customer-centred proposition can create standout and cut-through in a way that just being top of the search rankings or having a great brand campaign can’t, and it will be harder for others to copy. 

Think about where your customer is and what they are doing at each different section of their day, and target each element in a bespoke and relevant way.

Context is critical

The best work comes from being media- or channel-neutral at the planning stage. Only work with agencies that want to work together – you are employing these creative talents as a natural extension of your in-house teams, but they must be collaboratively eager to seize on a great idea from anywhere and then expand and build from it as part of the overall mix to amplify the whole campaign.

Context is also critical but often overlooked. Think about where your customer is and what they are doing at each different section of their day, and target each element in a bespoke and relevant way. 

Realise that not everyone will always see it your way

Occasionally, you will face an executive or an organisation that is just too set in its views. Sometimes you have to just accept that this is the case and try to persuade in as strong and as fair a way as you can while supporting the bigger picture. Above all, don’t lose heart and always stay true to what you believe in.

Never stand still. Never settle and never be happy with where you are

My favourite quote at the moment is: "The pace of change will never be as slow again as it is today." The marketing lead in a business must be the one who is most alive to the changing market dynamics, changing customer behaviours and changing influences.

We need to keep the organisation’s eyes firmly on the customer, and we have
to be the ones leading the innovation charge and inventing new business models to ensure our
business is best-placed to win in the future. 

Gary Booker recently stepped down as chief marketing officer at Dixons Carphone and is currently a non-executive director advising boards and start-ups. He was previously at O2 and Electronic Arts.

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