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Legendary Baseball Hall of Famer and Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by watching." The humor aside, there's a lot of truth in that statement.

As marketing professionals, we should always be observing our customers: Their habits, behavior, and feedback serve as a yardstick for measuring the strength of your company's relationship with its customers.

And if you're not watching your customers, someone else—probably your competition—is.

One way to understand customer metrics is to compare it to driving your car. When you're behind the wheel, there's a lot happening: You're constantly monitoring the vehicle's metrics, such as speed, engine temperature, and fuel levels, along with observing traffic and road conditions. There's no justification for not bringing the same level of monitoring to your customers.

So how can marketing professionals turn Mr. Berra's quip into an actionable plan?

The basic measurements most viewed are revenue and profitability. As long as those two are going up, why should anyone care? Simply put, as fast as these numbers go up... they can plummet. Customer preferences can change in a heartbeat... and if a company is caught flat-footed, next month's sales results won't look quite as rosy.

Having a strong understanding of your customers helps you spot warning signals before sales go completely south, as well as helping you to discover trends that can lead to new areas of growth and opportunity.

Here are five steps marketing professionals can take.

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image of Steve Hartert

Steve Hartert is chief marketing officer at JotForm, an online drag-and-drop form builder for online payments, contact forms, lead collection, surveys, registrations, applications, online booking, event registrations, and more.

LinkedIn: Steve Hartert