Marketing: Who Are Your Actual Customers?

Understanding who your customers are and how to meet their needs is key to effective marketing.

December 08, 2022

How do you market your company? And who are you marketing to? Those two questions go hand in hand as Nick Musyoka of Sonar Imaging Center learned. Hear how he targeted his marketing messages and increased revenues by 500 percent in just six years. And, gain insights from Jonathan Levav, professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, on how customer segmentation can help you find and market more effectively to your customers.

Standing out is never easy, especially when the product you and your competitors provide is virtually the same. That was the situation for Nick Musyoka when he returned to Kenya to lead marketing for Sonar Imaging Center, a chain of radiology clinics in Kenya.

According to Levav, understanding who your customer is is harder than it seems. “For starters, you need to distinguish between the user and the decision-making unit,” he explains. Using the toy company model as an example, the child is the ultimate user, but the parent is the decision-making unit. Who you prioritize and how you market to each matters.

That distinction between user and decision making unit is essential to Sonar Imaging. Musyoka’s research revealed that patients were the users and doctors were the decision-making units, so the company’s marketing needed to focus on a group that would probably never set foot inside a clinic.

Levav says the next step after identifying each of your customers is figuring out how to solve their unique problems. “You want the user to understand that the solution you have is the best thing since sliced bread, and it’s going to solve their problem. That’s positioning,” he explains. And finding your differentiation is key to that process.

So, Musyoka asked himself, “What is the key thing that we can talk about to differentiate ourselves?” Quality was too hard to prove. Unquestionable customer service was the answer for all of his customer segments. Even though his marketing campaigns have been incredibly successful, Sonar continues to evolve its customer segmentation and marketing. Levav couldn’t agree more. “You don’t just go out there in the world, assess the needs, walk away and just go hibernate and do your product, and then hope to sell it,” he says. “This is something that has to be done on a regular basis because people’s tastes change. Market realities change, competition changes, culture changes, macroeconomic conditions change, microeconomic conditions change.”

Listen to Musyoka’s firsthand marketing experiences and Levav’s insights on the importance of customer segmentation and positioning for every company that wants to stand out from the crowd.

Grit & Growth is a podcast produced by Stanford Seed, an institute at Stanford Graduate School of Business which partners with entrepreneurs in emerging markets to build thriving enterprises that transform lives.

Hear these entrepreneurs’ stories of trial and triumph, and gain insights and guidance from Stanford University faculty and global business experts on how to transform today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities.

Full Transcript

Nick Musyoka: Anybody can go and claim good quality images and good quality reports. Everybody has an MRI or a CT or an ultrasound or an x-ray. So we said, what is the key thing that we can talk about? And we started thinking about: How do we differentiate ourselves? Because that’s the biggest thing. So, what is your positioning as a business? What do you stand for? What are the key strengths or the key things that you’re selling to these doctors?

Darius Teter: Welcome to the second season of Grit & Growth from Stanford Seed, the show where Africa and South Asia’s intrepid entrepreneurs share their trials and triumphs with insights from Stanford faculty and global experts on how to tackle challenges and grow your business.

How do I market my products? It’s one of the things that entrepreneurs ask us about the most, but there’s something missing from that question and it’s something pretty important: the customer. Before you can dive into the how of marketing, you need a strong grasp of who you’re marketing to. And for many products, the answer is surprisingly complex.

So on today’s episode, we’re exploring customer segmentation. When used right, it can help you understand your market, focus your product, and reveal customers you didn’t even know about.

To illustrate this process, we spoke to a company whose entire strategy was transformed by segmentation.

Nick Musyoka: Sonar Imaging Centre is a medical imaging diagnostic services company in Kenya.

Darius Teter: I’ll introduce that voice in a moment because he wasn’t yet on the scene during Sonar’s humble beginnings.

Nick Musyoka: So we do radiology services, that’s MRIs, scans, CT scans, ultrasound scans, and x-rays. And this was founded in 2011 by Dr. Musyoki and Dr. Njogu. So they started in Dr. Njogu’s kitchen. Dr. Njogu is a gynecologist. And so it was space that is just enough for the bed for the patient and the ultrasound machine. That’s it. You can’t get in there more than three people.

Darius Teter: By 2016, Sonar was five years old. The doctors had added another clinic, but they’d hit a wall and they were uncertain how to grow further. Enter Nick Musyoka.

Nick Musyoka: So my name is Nick Musyoka. I’m a director at Sonar Imaging Centre.

Darius Teter: Nick spent the early years of his career with well-known multinationals, marketing their products across East Africa. But by 2016, Nick was looking for a new challenge and he found a big one in Sonar.

Nick Musyoka: The team felt that we needed now to move this business to the next level in terms of the commercial mindedness so that you can be able to become more competitive.

Darius Teter: What was your initial impression? What were the problems that you saw in their commercial strategy?

Nick Musyoka: Well, the first thing is that this was almost like a hobby. It wasn’t much of a very clearly defined strategic business because these are doctors, and I could see the lack of the commercial mindedness and all that. And it was like, “Oh, we’ve invoiced something, guys. Okay, this looks interesting.” So then you get to the next thing, and I said, “Why don’t you guys invite me? I join and probably I can structure this from a commercial point of view.” And they said, “Are you serious? Share your CV.”

So I gave them my CV, they looked at it, and I joined Sonar as a commercial director.

Darius Teter: By joining Sonar, Nick inherited a difficult problem. Radiology clinics all pretty much do the same thing, so how could he differentiate Sonar? It’s something he wrestled with for several years. But we don’t have that kind of time on a podcast. So we brought in an expert.

Jonathan Levav: Who am I? Who am I professionally or who am I personally?

Darius Teter: This is Jonathan Levav.

Jonathan Levav: So who am I? Professionally, I am the King Philanthropies Professor of Marketing at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and I’ve been at Stanford since 2011. The first eight years of my career I spent at Columbia Business School.

Darius Teter: Wait, so you’ve got 21 years of university experience, but you look like you’re 32 years old. How does that work?

Jonathan Levav: In my dreams, I’m 32 years old. I’m 47 years old.

Darius Teter: Wow. Well preserved.

As a professor of marketing, Jonathan has a lot of opinions on the subject. So let’s wind him up with a lightning round of true or false.

Sales and marketing are easily combined into one function.

Jonathan Levav: False. Nothing’s easy.

Darius Teter: Sales and marketing could be the same person.

Jonathan Levav: Depends on the size of organization. False.

Darius Teter: Small businesses generally don’t need a marketing function.

Jonathan Levav: So false.

Darius Teter: We need to market to everyone because everyone is a potential customer.

Jonathan Levav: Definitely false

Darius Teter: Marketing is mainly promotion and advertising.

Jonathan Levav: You’re going to make me cry. False.

Darius Teter: Marketing is mainly to acquire new customers.

Jonathan Levav: False.

Darius Teter: We don’t need marketing because our products sell themselves.

Jonathan Levav: Oh, Lord. So false.

Darius Teter: Over the years, I have heard every one of those statements from entrepreneurs that we work with across Africa and South Asia, where Jonathan also teaches for Stanford Seed. But there is a more subtle mistake that he often sees.

Jonathan Levav: I ask them, “Okay, what’s your market segment?” They say, “Oh, our product is for women ages 35 to 45.” And then you ask them, “Well, which women? All women?” “Well, no, I guess not all women.” Okay, well, what characteristics do they have? What need are you actually meeting?

Darius Teter: Different customers have different needs. That’s something Nick learned hands-on when you worked across multiple East African countries.

Nick Musyoka: You have to really understand different cultures, different languages, and understand what words mean, or even colors.

Darius Teter: Tell me about colors.

Nick Musyoka: So, for example, in African context, black is seen as not a good color. So if you have a product that is all black, and that is now in my age segment and before then, then that product may not sell well. It looks like it’s associated with evil, it’s associated with things that are not good.

But it’s changing. But earlier, people would look at that and think, “This is not the right thing.” You go to different other cultures and you find that red also represents a certain meaning.

Darius Teter: I mean, the other thing is language, right? You have many languages across the region.

There’s a famous story about when Chevrolet first started marketing this car called the Chevy Nova in Latin America. It didn’t do well and somehow, they didn’t figure out that “No va” is Spanish for “No go.” So they had a car called the “Chevy No Go” in Spanish, but they didn’t really … Because the brand was Nova. Hey, it’s the Chevy Nova. So they had to rename the car to sell it.

Nick Musyoka: I think you are very right. Luckily, in the larger East African region, you either are using English or you are using Kiswahili. And both in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, you’ll use Kiswahili. In Ethiopia, it’s totally different. English is not even there. So you have to use the Amharic language to make sure that you get as close to what you want to say as possible.

Darius Teter: And it’s not just Amharic, right? It’s Amharic, it’s Oromo, it’s Tigrinyan, it’s all sorts of things.

Nick Musyoka: Yeah, it’s all those three. They all understand Amharic. But you go to the Tigray area or to the Oromo area, they don’t want you to advertise to them in the Amharic because of the infighting, so you have to be sensitive to that as well.

Darius Teter: Your target customer doesn’t just govern what you say. It also dictates how you say it.

It reminds me when, years ago, I was in charge of a big forestry project in southern Bangladesh and we were trying to encourage these rural villages to plant trees and we were providing the tree seedlings. And what we realized was that in some of these places, the only way you could reach them was by radio. So we commissioned a famous singer to write a song about the importance of planting trees to preserve the environment. And we put that song out on the radio and then there were some places where they weren’t even listening to radio.

So for that, we hired a theater group to go from village to village and do a play, like a dramatic play in the village, all about environmental issues and why it’s important to plant trees. And then the third thing we did is we made a comic book for kids. Literacy rates were very low in these rural areas, so it had to be a comic book that you could understand without reading. So we made a comic book about tree planting and we spread that all over these villages. They were all different ways of trying to reach our target audience.

Nick Musyoka: It’s not actually radically different from what we did, also in East Africa. What you’re calling theater groups, we call them road shows. So you get these guys with vans, and we had to find ways of making it as cost-effective as possible, and you develop jingles that are relevant to the brand in local language and skits that people can play on in the market days. And we synchronized it.

The market day concept is very big in Africa until today. So you have, in rural areas, people go to markets on a certain day and then you would be at the marketplace just getting people doing skits there, getting them to come and dance. Zaire and Congo music, we call it Lingala. It’s very popular. So you play that for people, and they are dancing, and then you get their attention and then you can give them the message.

Darius Teter: Since your marketing is dependent on your target audience, you have to understand who they are. But that’s more complicated than it sounds. In fact, your actual customer may not be who you think it is.

Let’s start with the most simple question: Who are my customers? How do businesses tackle that seemingly simple question?

Jonathan Levav: That kind of understanding actually requires a fair amount of anthropological work. It really depends on the specific context you’re in. So in marketing, we’re distinguishing the user and the decision-making unit.

So you make toys, you’re a toy manufacturer, you’re Darius Toys “R” Us. All right? So who’s your customer? Well, your customer is — the child ultimately needs to want this toy. You sell at any price. If Jimmy is like, “Ah, Dad, I want this. I want this really badly,” so that’s one level of segmentation and needs-finding you have to do.

But the second part is it turns out kids —

Darius Teter: Don’t have credit cards.

Jonathan Levav: They don’t have credit cards. Unless grandma gave them some money for their birthday, they’re not buying it. The parents are buying it. That’s the decision-making unit.

So you also need to think about, okay, what values does that decision-making unit care about? Because, ideally, you haven’t agreed to every single request your child has made of you. And so there’s things you say yes to and there’s things you say no to, and the things you say yes to is because they concord with your values and what you’re trying to have your kids become, and the things you say no to is because they don’t concord with your values and it relates to something you don’t want your child to become.

Darius Teter: This is why so many parents buy science experiment kits for their kids —

Jonathan Levav: That nobody uses.

Darius Teter: That nobody uses.

Jonathan Levav: Yeah, nobody uses. Only the really weird kid uses a science experiment. And if you’re a listener and you are a science experiment kid, you are weird.

Darius Teter: God bless you.

Jonathan Levav: And so that’s complicated, because now it’s like you’re selling to this channel and you need to do your segmentation twice. You need to do your needs-finding twice and you need to do your, kind of, everything twice, except for some of the tactical things like the pricing and stuff like that because that — actually, it’s the decision-making unit that matters. So if I’m a kid, I don’t know anything about price. So there, I’m really working with the decision-making unit.

On the other hand, there’s some things that the kids really care about that the adults are indifferent about, like maybe there’s a color scheme that’s cool, maybe there’s a —

Darius Teter: Is it cool in school? That was the number one thing.

Jonathan Levav: “Is it cool in school” is exactly right. And that, the parent wouldn’t know, but the kid does.

Darius Teter: So who else matters is a big deal depending on the business.

Jonathan Levav: Who else matters is a big deal depending on the business and depends on the context. And in some environments, the user and the decision-making unit are the same, and in other environments, there’s decision-making units that are different than the users. And so you need to be aware of what kind of environment you’re in because that gives you the scope of what your needs-finding has to be like.

Darius Teter: This distinction between user and decision maker is essential to Sonar Imaging.

So let’s take an example of a doctor who’s ordering tests and imaging.

Jonathan Levav: Sure.

Darius Teter: The person who’s getting the imaging has no way to really evaluate whether they’re getting a better x-ray from this clinic or that clinic.

Jonathan Levav: You mean the patient?

Darius Teter: The patient, the person who’s actually being sent off to get these images. I guess this is an example like the toy and the child.

Jonathan Levav: Yeah, except they don’t really have any say. Their say is only meaningful in so far as it affects their impression of the doctor that sent them, and then whether or not they feel that doctor is good. So they’re relevant, but they kind of become relevant in a more tangential way. In that situation, I would really want to understand the doctors.

Darius Teter: The realization that doctors were the decision-making units was important. It meant that Nick’s marketing needed to focus on a group that may never set foot inside a Sonar Imaging Centre.

Your customers aren’t walking in the door, they’re sent to you.

Nick Musyoka: They are sent to us.

Darius Teter: Right. So the doctor is a primary customer segment.

Nick Musyoka: The doctor is the primary customer segment, yes. The first thing that I saw was that we have the doctors, but then how are we reaching those doctors? Are we reaching enough doctors actually for this business to be sustainable? How are we reaching those doctors? What is the messaging actually? Are you just going and meeting them and saying, “Please send me the patients and thank you very much”? Or what do you say? What do you stand for as a business?

Darius Teter: But this realization also opened the door to more complexity.

Nick Musyoka: Who are the people that we are dealing with? We are dealing with the doctors. They’re the people that give us business, but they don’t operate alone. That doctor is supported by probably a nurse, probably a matron in the hospital that they’re in, there are nurses that will get involved. There are then the doctor assistants, I think that’s what they’re called in the U.S. Here we call them the secretaries.

Darius Teter: The health-care industry is one of the most complex ecosystems out there. There are multiple levels of users and decision makers, each with their own unique influence.

Jonathan Levav: So these systems that are — I’ll call them albatross systems — that’s triply difficult because you’re right, it’s like every layer is a segmentation scheme. It’s a needs–finding, it’s a research, it’s a real, kind of, deep understanding. But the difference between success and failure is understanding those different layers. There are no shortcuts with that.

Darius Teter: This is where segmentation comes in. To fully understand what he was dealing with, Nick had to break the customers down into what he calls target groups and what marketers call segments.

Nick Musyoka: So we went out actually and tried to map out what we call the customer target groups and now started looking at, so what are the customers? What are these customers that you’re going to? How do we start then talking to them?

For us, we said, “Okay, they’re doctors,” and we call those power wielders because they are the people with the power. Because when they write that paper, that’s it. Nobody will change it. Nobody can do anything. And the needs of these people is quality, is how their patient is treated, is turnaround time. So when I send a patient there, how long does it take before they come back? When they come back, can I believe in these images I’m seeing? Did they pick what I wanted? Because this guy understands the patient better than us. There is the pathology that he’s looking for. So if he doesn’t see that, then he starts questioning what we are doing.

And after that, now you have people that I call actors. So the patient is an actor because he’s acting on information that is being given by the doctor. They can’t change that. And a lot of the time, we’ve seen patients being asked, “Go to Sonar,” and they go to another place, and they go back to the doctor and the doctor says, “Listen, I don’t want this report. I can’t work with these sort of images. Please go back to Sonar.” So the patient has to act on this. A lot of the time, the patient does not have a lot of power with that, so we call them actors.

Darius Teter: Nick’s research also unearths some hidden decision makers.

Nick Musyoka: Then after that, there are guys that we called gatekeepers and that is the secretary, that is the ambulance driver, that’s the security guy. So these guys have a lot of power because they get that and they can decide. Some of the doctors that are stand-alone, they are private practice, they rely on their secretaries. That young lady or young man is so powerful because the doctor relies on this guy collecting the money for the doctor, does everything, and there is only one in an office, or two.

Darius Teter: So a private practice doctor tells our patient, “You need to go get a CT scan.” Does the doctor decide or recommend which imaging place the patient goes to, or that’s what the gatekeeper is doing?

Nick Musyoka: So now some of the doctors say, “You go to Sonar,” but some will just say, “The person at the front there will direct you.” And that’s why they are the gatekeeper because they decide where you go.

Darius Teter: By segmenting his customers, Nick was able to find a brand-new way to increase referrals.

Nick Musyoka: Where we are in Nairobi, that’s where the business is. It’s mainly consultant doctors, but then the biggest challenge with that is that these are targeted by everybody. And the second thing is that there are not as many. We looked at this and realized that the bigger influencers are the gatekeepers, and that’s where the volumes are.

Then after that, you have guys that we say: these are advantage seekers. That’s another segment. So you have big hospitals or big practices that are looking for cost, negotiating for certain preferences for their patients, so that they’re saying, “Look, when I send my patients to you because I can send you five patients a day and that’s a lot,” and then they say, “Can they be a priority? Can they come first? Can I be the one on the top of the queue when they get there?”

So we have one such facility here, which has about 17 orthopedic surgeons, and we put an x-ray there because they don’t want reports, actually. They just want the image. It’s a broken bone, so they just get the image, put it there, check, say, “Okay, fine. It’s healing well,” or whatever it is. Their names are done correctly, so that’s what they want: convenience for themselves.

So all that is what we looked at and said, what are the characters of these? What are their pain points? So you have to be very careful while you deal with them.

Darius Teter: Okay, so let me just quickly review. So you have doctors, they’re the power-wielders because they write the referral; you have the actors who act on behalf of the doctor; you’ve got the gatekeepers who actually are sometimes making decisions that are in favor of you or your competition; and then you’ve got the advantage seekers, which are customers that have power collectively because they can send so much business to you.

So it never occurred to me that a radiology or imaging would have such a complex set of potential customers, some of whom are paying, some of whom are important but are not paying. So in this whole complex thing that you’ve laid out here, where did you decide to focus your energy?

Nick Musyoka: We have the doctors. So what are the key strengths or the key things that you’re selling to these doctors? So what is your positioning as a business? What do you stand for? That was the first thing.

The basis of our model of operation is that there has to be a radiologist. There has to be a radiologist because doctors then can trust you that they’ll get the right quality. And quality is so critical, whether it’s quality in terms of the images or quality in terms of the reporting. So that’s critical and that’s what we stand for as Sonar.

Darius Teter: You may have heard Nick use the term “positioning.” This is where research gets translated into action.

Jonathan Levav: So now I’ve done that homework, I understand the market, which is the set of people and their preferences. Now I say, “All right, where’s the space for me to solve problems? Okay, I’m going to solve this problem, this problem, this problem, this problem.” And then my positioning is: I need the potential user to understand that the solution that I have for him or her, that’s the best thing since sliced bread. That’s what’s going to solve their problem.

That thought process and that formalization between your solution and them perceiving that your solution is the solution to their needs, that’s positioning.

Nick Musyoka: We’ve tried to really position ourselves as a business that is about meeting the needs of these target groups in terms of quality for the images and also quality for the report.

Darius Teter: You have to be careful about positioning on quality, though, because that’s what everyone says about their products.

Jonathan Levav: I asked an entrepreneur in one of the Seed programs, “Okay, so what makes this service of yours better? Or this product better?” And they say, “Oh, ours is higher quality.” And I ask, “Well, what does that mean?” “Well, our quality is better.”

And that’s like a buzz moment for me because you have to be able to define along your quality dimension. Because, guess what? If you can’t define it, your customers won’t be able to define it. And you know your product. Your customers are barely motivated to process a tiny little element of your product. So it behooves you to care enough to kind of do the hard work to be able to define what your quality dimensions are.

Darius Teter: Nick needed another way to differentiate Sonar from its competitors.

Nick Musyoka: So we said, “What is the key thing that we can talk about?” And we started thinking about how do we differentiate ourselves and how do you differentiate? Because one of the biggest challenges was competition, and our competition has grown, and there are so many mushrooming facilities, it was starting to become even unprofessional.

So you are getting a lot of people that are going out, talking to customers, giving them all sorts of promises, and probably not delivering on those promises. And we talked about customer service. So we said, “We need to have unquestionable customer service.” What is the experience of that customer when they come to us and what is the feedback that they take back to the person that sent them?

Darius Teter: I love this. So product differentiation — it can’t be on the basis of the machines, but your initiative was unquestionable customer service.

Nick used what he learned through his research and applied it to each of his customer segments.

Nick Musyoka: But then after that, it’s again, customer service for the doctor. So if that doctor wanted to consult, so the doctors there can call our team of doctors, so Dr. Musyoki and his team of radiologists, and say, “I have this patient and this is what I’m seeing. What do you think? Should I ask for this sort of CT or should I do an MRI or what do you think?” Because the doctors may not be very clear about, so what is the right modality or what is the right procedure to do at that point? And then they ask.

So we are hoping for that. They are not the specialist for that area.

Darius Teter: Because they’re not the specialists. They’re not the specialists, right?

Nick Musyoka: Yes.

Darius Teter: You’re the specialists. So the doctors are a key customer and you want to gain their trust and you want them to refer patients to you. So one crucial way to do that is to be a source of — to help them with their own diagnosis, even before the images are taken.

You’re solving a couple of pain points for the doctors. You’re helping them make the proper referral for the proper type of scan. You have really high-quality equipment and you’re doing good analysis in diagnostics, which translates into great reports. So that’s how you’re addressing the doctors’ pain points and gaining their trust and their referrals.

I mean, did you have a formal positioning statement?

Nick Musyoka: Yeah, we have a positioning statement. Yeah, we say, “For the Sonar Imaging Centre, for the complete picture.” Because what we are saying is that we give you the picture, but also we give you the meaning behind that picture.

Darius Teter: Nick’s research also inspired him to focus on patient needs because even if they’re not decision makers themselves, their feedback can still help or hurt you.

Nick Musyoka: So the patients, their main issues are two or three. To them, customer service is turnaround time. How much do they wait here? And the cost, how much do I need to pay? And then the other thing is: How do you treat me?

Darius Teter: You’re trying to avoid a patient going back to the doctor and saying, “Sonar Imaging is terrible.”

Nick Musyoka: We want them to go there and say, “The place you sent me, those guys are so helpful, they’re so warm, they understand what they’re doing, they’re so professional,” all that sort of stuff.

Darius Teter: What he learned also informs how he approaches the gatekeepers.

Nick Musyoka: Yeah, the gatekeepers, like I said, their biggest thing is that you have to show them that you respect them. They can get easily pissed off because they think that you are dealing with them in the wrong way because you don’t think they’re important. So you have to deal with them as though they are very important. You have to treat them with care and with respect.

Darius Teter: I’m curious, how has this gone? I mean, you started this whole process, it sounds like, in 2015, 2016, it accelerated. Where are you now in the unquestionable customer service initiative and what kind of outcomes have you seen? How has it translated into revenue?

Nick Musyoka: At the point that VeAnne was here, probably we are the fourth largest imaging center in Kenya or in Nairobi in the region where we are. And now we are probably the second and maybe even closer to the number one. And in terms of revenues, I think by that time, we were doing about 45 million Kenya shillings. Now we’ve gone into almost like 270 million Kenya shillings. So, that’s huge growth. We are still on the journey.

Darius Teter: Because of their success with this strategy, Sonar is pursuing further ways to segment their customers.

Nick Musyoka: And so now we are moving from just segmenting the sources of the patients or the influence on the patient coming, to what are the diseases? What are the needs of those doctors that are sending those patients? So that then you can elevate that approach that you are going with.

So, for example, we are seeing oncology, or cancer cases, are quite a big thing. So how do we improve how we are dealing with such patients? The doctors for such patients want comparability, so they’re looking for the patient I sent to you last year, he came again in January, he came again in July, and probably they sent them again in December. Can you tie that all together? Can you give us comparability of how it’s improving or worsening their condition? What is happening there?

And I think that’s a critical thing that we are looking at from the customer service and also the process point of view, to be able to do that more correctly, so that now we are responding exactly to what they’re looking for, and that differentiates us completely from everybody else.

Darius Teter: It’s good that Sonar’s marketing strategy is evolving, because customers evolve, too.

Jonathan Levav: You don’t just go out there in the world, assess the needs, walk away and just go hibernate and do your product and then hope to sell it. This is something that has to be done on a regular basis because people’s tastes change, market realities change, competition changes, culture changes, macroeconomic conditions change, microeconomic conditions change. You’re older. What I did 20 years ago is not what I would do now. I have more flexibility along some dimensions and far less flexibility, particularly in my limbs, around other dimensions.

There’s not a lot of 27-year-olds with backache, but 47, if you don’t have a backache, it’s like you haven’t lived.

Darius Teter: It’s not a one-and-done process. It’s a continuous improvement process. Always want to use data to understand where things are going wrong and you want to reinforce with your customer service team all of the key things. And it never stops. You have to always do this.

Nick Musyoka: Definitely. It’s something that you have to keep doing. It’s something that is evolving because the needs keep changing and we have to keep refreshing it every day, every week, every month. Like you’re saying, it’s something that we have to just keep doing. You have to just keep reinventing.

Darius Teter: Marketing is complicated. You’re trying to convince someone, somewhere, to make a decision, but that decision depends on a huge number of factors, some cultural, some contextual. Different populations require different messages or even different forms of messaging. So the first question of any marketing strategy has to be: Who is my customer, and what do they need? Without that information, even the most well-thought-out campaign will fall flat.

Segmentation can help you get there. By breaking your customers down into categories, you can understand their specific needs and how you can fulfill them better than other companies. It can also show you who the decision makers are so you can focus your efforts on them. You may even unearth segments that you didn’t know existed, like Nick’s gatekeepers, unexpected customers that wield surprising influence in purchase decisions.

It’s a process that takes patience and observation, but it can be well worth it. Your best customer might be one you haven’t even considered.

Thank you to Nick Musyoka of Sonar Imaging Centre and Professor Jonathan Levav. You’ll hear more from him in our upcoming masterclass as we explore the psychology of marketing. That’s next time on Grit & Growth.

This has been Grit & Growth with the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and I’m your host, Darius Teter. If you liked this episode, leave us a review on your podcast app. It really helps us to share the stories of these incredible entrepreneurs with as many people as possible.

To learn how Stanford Graduate School of Business is partnering with entrepreneurs in Africa and Asia, head over to the Stanford Seed website at

Grit & Growth is a podcast by Stanford Seed. Erika Amoako-Agyei and VeAnne Virgin researched and developed content for this episode. Kendra Gladych is our production coordinator and our executive producer is Tiffany Steeves, with writing and production from Andrew Ganem, and Sound Design and mixing by Alex Bennett at Lower Street Media.

Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time.

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