5 Key Ingredients for Customer-Centric Marketing

Every customer is unique. They have individual needs, preferences and desires. That means customer focus has to be at the heart of any modern business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing strategy.

We all know that relationships are vital to any business. So why do some businesses ignore those relationships in favour of a scatter gun approach that shoots out communications like clowns from a cannon? By putting your customer at the centre of your marketing strategy, you not only tell your audience that you value them as a group, you help nurture an environment that shows you value them as individuals. That’s a powerful sentiment in today’s world, and we can prove it.

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There are all sorts of buzzwords and jargon around the strategies that utilise customer-centric marketing. But whether you call it inbound marketing, customer-centric marketing, or super-duper-great marketing, here are 5 key ingredients you need to include to unlock success.

Make it personal

Personalisation is the foundation of customer-centric marketing. It’s not just enough to know who your audience are, you need to work to address them as unique and valued individuals. As recently as a decade ago that might have seemed like an intimidating proposition, but with the wealth of data we have at our fingertips today, that personalisation opportunity is within your grasp. A name on an email, a retargeted advert taking into account your customer’s interests, a Facebook post that meets with the unique personality of your audience. Embedding the right customer focus helps ensure you’re building the right message.

This tangible personal experience builds tangible business results. A study by OneSpot showed that 88% of consumers admitted personalised content positively impacted how they felt about a brand, with the majority of respondents also saying it improved trust and brand loyalty. On the other side of that equation, an Evergage study of marketers found that 88% of respondents had realised a measurable boost in business results from introducing personalisation.

Personalisation isn’t just a shiny ribbon on top of a parcel. It’s a fundamental opportunity to engage your audience in a meaningful way.

Build relationships

Personalisation is about a static moment in time, but building relationships is about sustaining that customer focus over time.

The idea of being customer-centric is to help nurture positive relationships. That means you can’t just focus on pinpoint moments of conversion at any stage of the customer journey. You need to add value to that experience through helpful content, positive interactions, continued positioning as a brand that works to meet customer needs while aligning with their values. A 2014 study by WPP showed that 87% of respondents around the world wanted ‘meaningful relationships’ with brands.  

These relationships aren’t just about understanding what your customer wants, it’s about showing them what you stand for. Edelman’s 2018 Earned Brand study reveals that 64% of consumers around the world now assess perceived brand values and reputation to guide their purchasing decisions. That’s a powerful business reason to stand up for your values, even aside from the moral imperative to act like a responsible corporate citizen.

Develop data for people

We’re swimming in a world of data, from Google Analytics to Facebook advertising profiles. But that information is only as good as our ability to utilise it. When it comes to a customer-centric strategy, you need to develop a structured approach to data that allows you to see, and cater for, the individual.

There is no doubt that this approach raises questions of privacy. Those questions are best addressed than left to fester. It’s essential you access only that information which is freely and legally made available to you by customers, and that you store such information in a safe and secure way. This conflict is highlighted starkly in a study of 24,000 global consumers carried out by Verint in 2017, in which 80% of consumers admit to wanting a personalised service tailored to them, with 89% also saying it’s vital to know how secure their data is.

What does that mean for you? It means that developing data that is truly designed for people must tread the tightrope between personalisation and privacy. Make sure you understand the individual, but have processes in place to keep that individual’s data safe.

Learn to respond

The ability to respond is an essential part of customer-centric marketing. Think of it like having a conversation. One person talking to another is just a lecture, or an argument, or a sign of unidentifiable madness.

You need to be able to respond to your customers in a way that helps build that conversation. That means recognising what they say, acknowledging that they’ve said it, and responding from the perspective of your business. The expectations of customers can be cripplingly harsh in this landscape. A 2016 study of 3,000 consumers in Europe and Latin America revealed that 84% expecting companies to respond within 24 hours of their posting on social media. A separate Salesforce study of 6,700 global consumers revealed that 64% of consumers expect brands to respond in real-time.

There’s sometimes a misconception that being responsive just means doing what your customer wants, and be damned with the business implications. That should never be the case. This whole idea of customer-centric marketing is based on building the kind of relationship that means even when you’re apologising for not being able to meet a customer’s needs, they recognise and respect you for being honest in your response.

Be prepared to react

A crucial final part of customer-centric marketing is about reacting not just to your customers’ immediate needs, but to the changing desires and circumstances of their existence. Some brands are lucky enough to grow with customers through their own life cycle. But can you honestly say that your attitude as a teenager is the same as that of your working professional life?

We’ve said it already, but this is all about relationships. Relationships evolve, which means understanding and reacting to changes in those around you. With the right structures in place to understand your customer, you should have the understanding that allows you to evolve and meet that need.

Take the example of iconic global success story Netflix. They transformed from a small DVD rental service in the 1990s to a multibillion dollar global cloud-based service provider by understanding and responding to the changing needs of their customers. That’s the value of being responsive to your audience.

The reality today is that customers expect you to understand them, and expect you to react. The Salesforce study revealed that 76% of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. That figure is set to rise.

What does that mean for you? If you want to deliver marketing that converts to real business value, you need to adopt a customer-centric approach shows you value them first.

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