What CTOs Know about Customers

Loretta Prencipe

What do CTOs know about customers and end users that marketers-especially 'social marketers'-don't know? Some times a lot.

I attended the Potomac Tech Wire's Social Marketing Outlook panel presentation (twitter: #smo2009). On the panel were experts Rohit Bhargava, founder of Ogilvy's 360 Digital Influence - @rohitbhargava; Adam Lehman, COO of Lotame - @AdamL; Goeff Livingston, SVP at CRT - @GeoffLiving; and Jake Maas, CFO of LivingSocial.

While the conversation was sprinkled with interesting anecdotes about Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the panel danced around some important questions: Who is the customer? How does the end user differ from the 'customer'? And where do the needs of the customer diverge from the desires of the end user? If the end user is not satisfied with the platform, will the customer EVER be satisfied?

Every CTO I've ever spoken with has taken great pains to understand both the customer and the end user-and the differences between the two. The CTO function is driven by understanding the customer and the customer's needs and bottom line. Yet, the end users will ultimately define the success of the CTO's technology and solutions.

As a result, CTOs slice and dice both the customer as an entity and the end user as a driver of the customer. The CTO and team spend a great amount of time face-to-face with the customer's technology and other executives. Significant time is spent with the end user. Without this investment in time, the CTO's technology and product solutions-no matter how good-will be hard-pressed to meet current and anticipated problems customer challenges.

The division between customer and end user is not to be taken lightly-whether on a social media platform or a proprietary platform that solves a complex multi-billion dollar problem. It is intertwined and success rides on understanding both.

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