Put yourself in your customers' shoes and keep your eyes open wide

Solving marketing problems means understanding first hand how consumer experience your brand - and looking everywhere for fresh ideas, writes BA's former top marketer.

Step into the consumer’s shoes

Thanks to technology and big data, marketers have more power to understand consumers than ever before. But all the data in the world can’t replace the value of walking a mile in your customers’ shoes.

When I was at British Airways, we were receiving consistently low satisfaction scores from our business class passengers, despite business class being the strategic heart of the company. So I took a few trips in business class, visited with customers in our lounges and met face-to-face with 200 valued passengers to learn more about their experiences first-hand.

We used this insight to enhance the business class traveling experience with elevated food and beverage service, wi-fi, improved seat design, higher quality bedding and more.

Though the entirety of the plan will take several more years to fully execute, the changes that already have been implemented have received positive reviews from passengers.

Understand "the why"

Knowing your customer’s wants and needs is one thing. Understanding "the why" behind their decisions is another.  At Topgolf, we ask ourselves a laundry list of questions to understand why and how our guests interact with us.

What occasions are leading guests to our venues? Are they sharing their experiences on social media? What drives them toward purchasing a platinum membership? Does prior golf experience affect a guest’s decision to visit a venue?

Answering questions like these helps guide our decision-making in multiple areas of our business, including marketing. Through this process, we realized we aren’t selling a product or service, we’re selling an experience, which offers much greater value to our guests.

Localise the global customer

As larger companies focus on the "global customer," it’s vital to respect the power of localisation.  You must acknowledge the local nuances of different regions and cultures and make your brand fit – not the other way around.

This is the heart of Topgolf’s international expansion. How our brand operates in one country or region may not work quite the same way in another, so we partner with local agencies to help bring the Topgolf experience to different countries.

For example, a signature item on the Topgolf menu in the US is Mushi, aka Mexican Sushi. The name Mushi has different meanings in other languages, so we will be rethinking how our menu will be updated to cater to every local audience.

We’ll take the same approach with music selection. The songs played at Topgolf Nashville will vary from the music played at our Gold Coast venue in Australia. Marketing magic happens when you can localize your global brand while remaining true to your company DNA and values.

Innovate, or become obsolete

They say the only true constant in business is change. I’ve not only faced geographic change throughout my career, I’ve also transitioned across several industries. I’ve learned a lot about embracing change and can now draw on my diverse experiences to tackle the challenges of an evolving world.

During my time at Avis Budget Zipcar, I was tasked with transforming a 20-year-old website and digital presence into a relevant and useful tool for their customers.

I started by looking not at the company’s direct competitors but outside the industry. By studying the loyal customer bases of other well-known brands, we were able to create a website and mobile experience that set Avis apart from the competition.

In the same way, Topgolf leaders have continuously looked beyond the golf industry toward entertainment, technology, food and beverage, and much more.

We fused aspects from each of these areas into an ever-evolving global sports and entertainment community. Since then, innovation has remained a key component of who we are as a company and is the driving force behind Topgolf’s disruption of several industries.

After all, there’s no better way to set yourself apart from the competition than creating your own category.

Troy Warfield is president of Topgolf International. He was formerly director of customer experience at British Airways, and is one of Campaign’s Power 100 marketers.

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