Is customer-centric marketing the way of the future?

Customers are what bring life to every business. Without them, a business will not succeed. That's why there's a consistent increase in marketing efforts targeted specifically for customer attraction and retention.

customer satisfaction
Thinkstock

You’ve heard the term customer-centricity before, but are you aware that it’s the future of marketing? Today’s customers are looking for transparency and personalization. If you can’t deliver it to them, they’ll go elsewhere. But how do you meet these needs without compromising your brand’s message?

Understanding customer-centric marketing

There are many definitions for the term customer-centric marketing, but Custora has developed what most would consider to be a concise, yet inclusive explanation that clearly tackles its purpose.

“Customer-centric marketing is a strategy that places the individual customer at the center of marketing design and delivery,” Custora explains. “It starts from the realization that there is no “average” customer. Customers have different behaviors and preferences — and this presents rich opportunities to move past a “one-size-fits-all” marketing approach.”

The latter portion of this definition is particularly interesting since one-size-fits-all approaches have become commonplace over the past few years. For decades, businesses have attempted to tailor marketing efforts to specific channels, products or events. And while some claim to put customers first, they typically only put a target demographic first. This leads to ostracizing and alienating other customers who don’t fit their perfect little mold. 

The problem with taking an isolated approach that prioritizes one specific channel, product, event or customer is that it leads to missed opportunities. And while customer-centric approaches may not have been feasible in the past, we’re at a point where it’s now possible.

“Customer centricity empowers the marketing team to target the right customer with the right channel and right message — at the right time,” Custora points out. “It also helps teams align around a strategy that will drive long-term value to the business: acquiring high-value customers, and keeping them coming back.”

That’s something every business can get behind.

Five ways to make your marketing efforts customer-centric

It’s easy to agree with the principle that a customer-centric approach to marketing is good when you see the benefits, but do you know how to get started? In other words, what does it look like to align your marketing strategy with a customer-centric approach?

As you can probably guess, there is no standard blueprint for becoming customer-centric. However, there are some underlying principles, strategies and techniques that can be leveraged to increase the likelihood of positive results.

Let’s explore a few of these methods and highlight a couple of examples along the way.

1. Shift the role of sales

Sales and marketing go hand in hand and there needs to be some consistency between the message you’re delivering to customers via marketing and the approach your sales department takes when pushing prospects through the bottom stages of the conversion funnel.

Specifically, you need to ensure the traditional approach to sales — where there’s excess selling without emphasis on actual customer needs and success — is replaced by an approach that prioritizes the customer over upselling. This is something that consulting firm Triniti does very well.

“At Triniti, we have replaced our sales function with solution enablement consultants who are focused on your objectives to successfully deliver solution into production,” Triniti explains. The heart of this shift is rooted in the belief that satisfied customers nurture long-term trust, which ultimately generates business-side revenue.

2. Convey a simple philosophy

While you may not feel like mission statements and core values are particularly important, you need to come up with a core philosophy that drives your marketing efforts. Not only does this give customers something to grab onto, but it provides a sort of internal measuring stick for how you’re doing at any given moment.

Business consultant Micah Solomon is big on the idea of creating something that’s simple and concise. He points to the Ritz-Carlton’s “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” and Mayo Clinic’s “The needs of the patient come first.”

3. Personalize content marketing

Content marketing is obviously very important, but an investment in generic content is a waste of time. In 2017 and beyond, personalization is where you’ll see a return. You can personalize content in a variety of ways, but one of the most effective solutions is to make an investment in interactive content.

Interactive content — such as pricing calculators, assessments and games — are wonderful because they let your customer take control over what’s happening. This enhances their satisfaction with the content and cultivates a more positive perception of your brand.

4. Put data to use

It’s safe to assume your marketing department is collecting customer data. In fact, it’s hard not to. With all of the marketing tools and analytics platforms you have at your disposal, you have enough information to paint some pretty accurate pictures of who your target customers are. The question is, are you putting this data to good use?

Many marketers spend so much time collecting and organizing data that they don’t have time to use it. In the end, this means your data-harvesting efforts are nothing more than a waste of time.

In 2017, your company can become more customer-centric by making it a point to actually use data to enhance touch points between your brand’s marketing and your customers. It’ll take some time to figure out what this looks like, but you’ll enjoy some nice returns.

5. Automate, rinse, repeat

“Automation is the step that transforms marketing actions from a one-time win to an ongoing source of value,” marketing analytics expert Jordan Elkind says. “Once a team has identified successes — tactics that help them acquire more high-value customers, or maximize the value of a customer’s relationship — identifying the right automation tools is crucial.”

In other words, once your company finds customer-centric marketing actions that work, you should turn your attention towards identifying ways to automate these processes. This allows you to focus on other unique strategies that move your business forward. It’s a sort of marketing loop that maximizes productivity without compromising customer attention.

Customer-centric companies win

As you can see, becoming a customer-centric company takes some work, but it isn’t impossible or unrealistic. By letting great customer service shine through in your marketing efforts, you can generate huge returns for your company.

This is an idea that data clearly supports. According to the Customer Experience Index 200, companies that are classified as customer-centric have outperformed the S&P 500 Index by 10.7 percent since data on the topic was first collected in 2007. That’s a pretty significant number and shows just how important putting customers first really is.

While strict company regulations and bureaucratic processes may make it challenging to make any sharp pivots in your current approach to marketing, this is something you should start addressing as soon as possible.

Customer-centric companies win and you can’t afford to ignore this fact any longer.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

NEW! Download the Winter 2018 digital edition of CIO magazine