Catalyst issue 11: The future customer
- 10 May 2018
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‘No plan of operations survives first contact with the enemy.’
It was Prussian military commander Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke, in the 19th century, who first issued this famous maxim. It has since been adopted by leaders in many fields, not only combat, and it will ring true for many marketers, too. Of course, marketers might wish to replace the term ‘enemy’ with ‘customers’, ‘prospects’ or ‘consumers’. It’s an interesting swap, however, because it reveals a rather negative outlook where there needn’t be one.
A military force might know little about the true capabilities of its opponent before they meet, as each side does their utmost to keep their intentions secret. Marketing is different. Some ‘known unknowns’ will persist, but consumers are generally ready and willing to state their intentions – after all, they are asking marketers and brands for help in fulfilling their needs.
Marketing needn’t be a guessing game, and plans of operation shouldn’t be developed on generalised assumptions. This becomes even more pertinent when it comes to considering the future. Marketing should always be looking ahead, considering how customer behaviour is changing, what is driving that change, and how business can respond to meet those fast-developing needs. Indeed, the idea of the future customer is not about the world of tomorrow, it’s about listening and taking action on the customer’s behalf today.
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