Why we created the ‘Customer Insight Framework’

This month sees the release of our free ‘Customer Insight Framework’ document, which we think is essential reading for all sales and marketing staff working in scholarly publishing. The framework, endorsed by 5 major publishers, presents a concise set of 12 guiding principles for a complete and fully-integrated customer view. So what were our reasons for creating it?

1. Explain why scholarly publishing is different. It’s not stressed often enough quite how different scholarly publishing is from other industries such as direct-to-consumer retail. Most books, articles, and blogs about customer marketing assume the direct-to-consumer model, whereas scholarly publishing is very different: “customers” are a complex mix of individuals, libraries, companies, universities, hospitals, and large buying consortia. This difference should be given due recognition, because it brings with it a whole bunch of complications.

2. Highlight the problems. Noting that “customer” is a difficult concept, further problems arise from this. Firstly, identity becomes a major challenge: do we consider the Chemistry Library to be the same customer as the Main University? Is it also known as the Boyle Library? Is Company X a subsidiary of Company Y, or a separate entity? And with these identity problems come real business challenges: have I already sold to Library A via a big deal? Is University B correctly restricting access only to agreed faculties? Is Company C paying an appropriate rate for its number of staff? We believe these problems are sometimes poorly understood, and often misdiagnosed as “we need CRM” (we’ve blogged in the past about the many meanings of CRM).

3. Define a shared roadmap for like-minded publishers. So, enough with the problems: how can we solve them? A core aim in creating the framework was to try to build some consensus on what the main ‘customer insight’ objectives for a major publisher should be. To that end, we consulted many of our publisher clients when drafting the document, and sought their views on the 12 key points it contains. The checklist now gives our own conversations with publishers a common focus, and highlights ‘gaps’ where pieces of their big picture are still missing. (Interestingly, it has already prompted some interesting idea-sharing discussions directly between the publishers we work with too.)

4. Sell solutions, not technology. The framework stands alone and makes no reference to our own MasterVision product, but it was of course also created with an eye to raising awareness of DataSalon’s services. As a piece of marketing, we hope it will help communicate that we are fundamentally selling ‘customer insight’ (ie. a specific solution to a real problem) not just ‘tools and technology’. We hope it contributes some thought-provoking ideas to a wider industry discussion, and helps to explain why ‘customer insight’ is such a big challenge for all scholarly publishers.

Download the ‘Customer Insight Framework’ (PDF)