Posted at Jul 2, 2019 2:56:00 PM by THAT Agency | Share
Customer-centric marketing starts with a simple idea: you serve your customers. It seems obvious, but it's very often forgotten. Businesses begin to look at customers as resources to expend, and it's hard to grow that way. Today's marketing environment means that the business is the resource, the brand your conduit for delivering it, and a customer-centric approach is what allows consumers to popularize your products and feel more comfortable purchasing.
As customers grow increasingly wary of marketing, it's important adopt a customer-centric approach. In fact, doing so can help you reach your business-building goals.
Obviously, there's a benefit to your business in all this. This isn't talking about throwing yourself on the sword for the customer. It's talking about marketing as a relationship where both sides are able to find value. If the customer becomes de-valued enough, they'll realize it sooner or later.
1. Data Drives Knowledge
You have to know what your customers want and how they interact with you. How do they use your website? What helps them convert? How long do they spend on certain pages? Beyond this, where do they come from? What other purchasing habits do they have? What competitors are they considering?
The more assumptions you make about your customer segments, the more likely you are to be inaccurate in your decision-making about marketing to them. The more information you have, the more accurately you can center the priorities of different customer segments. Customers are well trained to ignore marketing that doesn't fit them or speak to their needs and wants.
You need the ability to plug various factors into analytic models that allow you to predict customer behavior and product performance.
2. Chatbots ... to a Point
It may seem counterintuitive to say that a customer-centric approach should utilize an A.I. to handle customer inquiries. Certainly, there are very wrong ways to do this. A chatbot that isn't up to the task will only frustrate customers and make them feel unattended. A capable chatbot should be able to handle straightforward inquiries and burrow down quickly to featuring specific products that the customer is looking for.
When a chatbot can't handle an inquiry, there needs to be a system to hand it over to a live person. Depending on the size of your organization and number of inquiries, this may mean an immediate response or one that takes hours. Be clear about the time it will take you to respond.
This kind of automation actually sees an improvement in employee satisfaction as well, because it complements employees rather than replacing them. Employees have difficulty handling multiple inquiries at once that require different elements of product presentation and customer service.
Human beings aren't evolved to juggle 20 conversations at once in real-time. Chatbots can, and they can hand the one or two conversations out of those 20 that do require a person to respond to capably.
3. Focus on Inbound Marketing
Outbound marketing can be productive, but its rate of conversion is minimal and inconsistent. It makes your business live and breathe based on shots in the dark. It's a tool that can be useful, but rarely succeeds as the heart of a marketing strategy.
Focusing on a clean website, content creation, SEO, and inbound conversions are far more effective. Consider this: outbound marketing only lasts as long as the ad's up, or a contact is made. Inbound marketing is based on creating assets like your website and regular content. Assets build on each other. The more your site returns relevant SEO hits, the more potential customers will visit.
Inbound marketing strategy is an inherently customer-centric approach because the customer is actively searching for you. That means they've already brought themselves into the territory where they're likely to buy. They've already closed themselves on a sale. They're primarily looking at who to buy from. They're much more likely to purchase, and they're more likely to purchase a larger amount. Outbound marketing fails this test, which is why conversion rates are lower, and customers wind up purchasing at a far lesser rate.
Don't cut outbound marketing out altogether. It can serve as an effective complement, but inbound marketing should serve as the heart of any customer-centric marketing strategy.
4. Build Relationships
One of the reasons the customer-centric approach can seem daunting is because it demands such a flexible way of thinking and a diverse array of skills. You have to be able to analyze data, create entertaining and informative content, and to build individual relationships to your brand on a large scale. That demands a very full spectrum of talents and skills, which means coordinating people who may think in very different ways.
Building relationships to customers means a few things. First look at why you would do this: customers who feel personally invested in your brand want to see it succeed. They'll regularly champion it to others on social media, share your content, and they'll be some of your best repeat customers.
How do you do this? There are a few ways. Regular content creation helps customers stay connected and thinking about your brand. This can be in the form of blogs, videos, quizzes, image galleries, even apps. Respond when customers make a comment, even if it's just to say, “Thank you,” or, “We're glad to hear from you.”
When customers do raise a criticism – especially on social media – treat it fairly and be accountable to it. Tell them why you made a certain decision, why a certain capability isn't ready yet, or how you'll address a customer experience that was less than satisfactory (if the complaint is fair). Other customers will see this accountability and appreciate it.
Essentially, relationships are built through communication. Keep up this communication in broad ways and, when you can, in specific ways.
5. Act Like Everyone's a Human Being
Well, except the chatbots – most people know they're talking to an A.I. in those cases. Yet if two human beings are dealing with each other, act like it. Obviously, you need to protect your business from compliance and legal standpoints. There are procedures to follow. Yet you can communicate these in a human way.
Most people have dealt with unmoving customer service representatives who refuse to listen. Maybe it's the cable company, a car manufacturer, someone trying to wriggle out of living up to the warranty they gave you. When the other person's goal is to enable a business to escape responsibility, have you ever left those conversations feeling more positively about that business?
In these cases, you're not treated as if you're a human. You're not treated as if you're honest. You're only treated as a potential legal and financial risk. Yes, sometimes you'll be in a situation where your business is right and the customer is wrong.
Customers won't always leave happy. Yet if they leave feeling as if they've been treated as human beings, and your business did what it could to meet them in a middle ground or explain something they didn't understand, they're more likely to respect you, they're still likely to buy from you, and they probably won't leave a scathing and unfair review that damages your reputation.
6. Omnichannel Marketing
There are so many aspects of marketing to juggle that it becomes difficult for most employees to view a campaign in a holistic way. It's an email here, a blog there, social media management over there, folding regular video content in that comes from someplace else. It can look and feel like a hodgepodge, but that's not how the customer views it. Or at least, it shouldn't be.
Omnichannel marketing means focusing on giving customers a single, smooth experience across multiple devices and platforms. Online and offline sales should feel similar. A customer should be able to leave one device and pick up where they left off on another because their profile is shared across the two. If they can use a tool on one device, they should be able to use it on all devices the same way.
This means having your digital and traditional marketing teams coordinating together toward the same goal. It means having app developers meshing with your website developers so that new tools are ready to go bug-free on launch day on all devices – or that at least customers know accurately when the tool will be available on a platform that you couldn't squeeze into the launch period.
7. Integrate Engagements
Customer-centric marketing doesn't mean they purchase a product on their laptop and then continuing to advertise that very same product on another device. They just bought it and they very likely bought as much of it as they're willing to buy right now. That's wasted advertising money.
Yet they may be drawn back by shirt and coat ads. Going a step beyond this, they may stay engaged and thus more willing to buy in the future if they see an interesting fashion article you've posted. They just bought something from you, so they trust you enough to give you money – that means they trust you enough to share an informative and captivating article with their friends, i.e. new potential customers.
You see how this ties into so many other points on this list: analytics, content creation, omnichannel marketing. You can also see how a customer-centric approach is still focused on effective marketing that helps your business sell and grow.
You're on the Same Team as the Customer
This speaks about specific tools, methods, and strategies. The overarching message is this: your business and the customer are not opposed. You can be on the same team.
It's increasingly important to be open to this as customers grow more wary of brands and more distrustful of traditional marketing. Brands need to work with and trust customers, within reasonable degrees. That means putting the work in to do that, creating the content that speaks to them, and crafting experiences that are easy for them to manage.
When you do this, you'll see just how much customers want to support you, identify with your brand, and be a part of its community. It's a scary way of thinking about marketing for those with more traditional mindsets. Yet it's deeply effective, it drives sales, it increases customer loyalty, and it improves satisfaction on all sides.