Market Orientation - Do organisations really want to know what customer think/want?

Recently I did something I have been very bad at in my career, I invested in myself. I signed up for the Marketing Week Mini MBA with the fantastic and inspiring Mark Ritson. I am thoroughly enjoying it and feel invigorated with a degree of affirmation that my approach to customer centric marketing was on the money, however being a good marketer can mean you come up against organisations who simply do not value knowing their customer.




Having been hit pretty hard by the pandemic and still struggling with the employment market at the moment at a senior level a lot of self doubt was creeping in as to my general ethos and I was continually being passed over for roles particularly in the SASS space due to me not working directly for SASS platforms in my previous roles despite having a wealth of experience as a user and business sponsor of on boarding said platforms, and ultimately being their customer. 

Now there is a fabulous article by the wonderful Mr Ritson that has helped me make sense of this. Ritson states in his article “The First Rule Of Marketing Orientation”  that a lot of organisations need to be reminded that they are not the customer.

“You help produce the product, ergo you are not the consumer of it. Learning to separate your own instinctive thoughts and feelings from the actual insights from real consumers is, literally, the first thing a trained marketer learns to do well.”

In this delightful article (I recommend you read it, seasoned marketing folk will resonate with it a lot) Ritson makes the comparison of who is better candidate for leading a Tennis brand; a pro-tennis coach or a Marketing Manager for a soup company. Now there are well set out pros and cons for both as you can imagine, but Ritson's point is it is whoever can offer true Market Orientation is the right candidate

“[whoever] knows how to generate good qualitative insight, then produce clear quantitative results from representative samples of the target market”

The importance of gaining solid customer research to understand if you are

“building the right thing before building it right"

is paramount. I have worked in organisations who felt they knew their customers best but it is very hard to read the label on a jar when you are in the jar itself. 

You may remember a meme going around LinkedIn in the early days of COVID stating - "Who led your digital transformation in 2020 - CEO, CTO or COVID 19" - well I posted shortly after with a correction as everyone seemed to have neglected a very important C word..... As it should, and always will be, your customer triggers any transformation.


I have worked for organisations who spent millions of dollars on research just to ignore the fundamental message customers were telling them verbatim. I recommend watching the Levis Strauss documentary - Not by Jeans Alone for an extreme example of this.

Although I understand the point from these SASS organisations I have applied to recently that because they were looking for people specifically who had worked for SASS organisations or their competitors before (which is their prerogative) I would not be considered, but I had to remind them this is a senior marketing role and they state they are Market/Customer oriented above all else (one company even has “we solve customers problems" across pretty much all their collateral) so having this insight as a customer is surely worth considering as a candidate. That, and by their admission I am more than qualified in terms of Marketing know-how meant I was left confused by their lack of consistency in their feedback. So it is interesting and one of my interview questions for future roles is now “Would you categorise the organisations orientation as Sales, Market, Product or Advertising" as for me this now needs to be a qualifier to determine if I want to continue my application.

If anyone know any authentic, real Market Orientated organisations comment below, I will be sending them my CV!

For more information about the Mini MBA from Marketing Week check out their website. https://mba.marketingweek.com/

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