Growth Insights for CEOs

Customer Insight-Driven Breakthroughs

Posted by Tom McCrary

How can a mid-market business increase its marketing effectiveness, perhaps without increasing marketing budget? It has been my experience when we:

  • Identify an underlying need, Find the core reason forTom McCrary Breaksthrough - CEO Insights purchases, and Determine the fundamental driver of behavior;

We can:

  • Generate a positive shift in performance, Operate at a higher level,and Realize a significant boost in results.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

The Customers' Schedule

At Greyhound, our business in the Northeast Corridor (Washington, DC to NYC to Boston) was stagnant. While the routes did well overall, we were not seeing any growth in ridership. We studied the situation from a variety of aspects and made some interesting discoveries:

  • Travelers between these cities did not plan their travel in advance, but rather arrived at the terminal when ready to depart;
  • Our bus departure times were scheduled to fit our needs based on our operational convenience (i.e. 10:52 am; 12:01 pm; 12:59 pm; etc.).

In both instances, we were not making travel easy on consumers. The insight was realizing that it was quite simple to make improvements. We changed the bus schedule to run every hour on the hour or half hour between these major hubs. 

The breakthrough? Ridership increased ~25% with no additional marketing expense just by offering schedules that made sense to our customers.

What would make your customers/clients experience the best?  How could you find out?

Getting Up or Sleeping Inn

At Embassy Suites, we knew by observation that our weekday and weekend guests were different: a Business clientele during the week and Family guests on the weekend.  With “source market” analysis, we were able to identify the profile and key drivers for these two distinct customer groups. Using the insights from this discovery process, we then were able to create unique and targeted strategies for each business opportunity:

  • For the business segment, we identified individual companies with employees staying in our hotels and the guests’ “feeder” markets.   And we determined whether marketing or sales would provide the greatest leverage;
  • For the family segment, we developed both a demographic profile and geographic footprint for each hotel that enabled effective and efficient targeted marketing activities.

The Breakthrough? Through these insights, we increased in business traffic from some feeder markets by as much as 50% and experienced double-digit growth in our weekend business, in an otherwise flat to declining leisure hotel industry.

What drives your customer/client behavior?  What would it take to find out?


Breakthroughs can be game-changers. Breakthroughs are often driven by key insights that result in changes in operations, product offerings, marketing strategy and spending. As Ari Weinzweig at Zingerman’s says in the Zingerman’s Natural Laws of Business, “success means you get better problems.” 

What are you doing to generate the insights in your business to drive your next breakthroughs?  What “better problems” are in your future?

Topics: Customer Intimacy, CEO Choices, Strategic Insights

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