Customer insights that matter

Patrick Barwise and Seán Meehan
London Business School and IMD

This paper, to be presented at the ARF Re:Think 2011 conference, is based on our new book, Beyond the Familiar: Long-Term Growth through Customer Focus and Innovation ( Jossey-Bass, April 2011).

Our last book, Simply Better,1 looked at 'differentiation that matters', that is, differentiation through the eyes of the customer. It was based on evidence that, despite marketers' obsession with uniqueness, what most customers want is products and services that just work, rather than offering USPs. Delivering the basics 'simply better' therefore provides 'differentiation that matters'.

Beyond the Familiar builds on this by focusing on what managers need to do to ensure that valid, actionable customer insights from a wide range of sources (not just formal market research) reach those with the power to act and that they then do so. We see growth as an outcome, a consequence, of promising and consistently delivering better and better solutions to customers. Further, we see this process as building a valuable long-term asset, the company's reputation in customers' minds (brand equity), which is then the platform for further growth.