As the marketing world has evolved, so has the balance of power between companies and consumers. In the early days of marketing, companies had a clear advantage. They controlled the message and channels through which they delivered their message. Customers were largely unaware of what was going on behind the scenes.
Nowadays, however, the tables have turned. Customers are more informed than ever, thanks to the internet and social media. They can quickly research products and compare prices. They can read reviews and get recommendations from their friends. As a result, customers have a much better idea of what they want and are not afraid to let companies know it.
All this adds to one reality: the customer holds all the power in today's business landscape. No longer content with being talked at or sold to, consumers now demand a personalized, relevant, and engaging customer experience from the brands they do business with. Those that fail to meet these expectations are quickly cast aside in favor of their more customer-centric rivals.
But there is good news. Understanding this shift in power can help you fine-tune your marketing approach in order to stay one step ahead of your competition. By putting your customer's needs first, you can create a marketing strategy that is both effective and sustainable in the long term.
Customer-first vs company-centric marketing
Customer-first marketing means putting the customer first in all marketing decisions. It's a strategy that starts with the customer and works backward. With customer-first marketing, businesses start with the customer, determine what they need and want, then create or modify their product or service to meet those needs. It's a popular philosophy because customers are tired of being treated like numbers or dollar signs. Instead, they now want to feel valued by the businesses they support.
In contrast, company-centric marketing is all about the company and what it can offer. Company-centric businesses usually create products or services and then push them onto prospective consumers. They rely on advertising, PR, and sales tactics to get potential customers to buy into what the company is selling. While this traditional marketing approach may still see business growth, it has become less common as customers become savvier and more discerning.
Implementing customer-first marketing
Customer-first marketing can be summed up in one word: empathy. You need to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and see things from their perspective. Only then can you create a product or service that meets their needs. Of course, market trends are a factor to consider, but you need to start with your target consumers to identify market trends relevant to your organization.
There are many ways to carry out customer-first marketing and growth strategies for your business. Here are a few tips:
Tip #1: Identify your target persona
Identifying your target persona is a crucial step in developing an effective offline and online marketing strategy. Your target buyer persona is the specific type of customer you want to focus on and attract. It is a composite sketch of your ideal customer based on actual data.
This process involves identifying your target audience based on age, gender, occupation, income level, lifestyle, and spending habits. Gather this data from your sales team, marketing people, and, more importantly, from market research. Knowing whom you're trying to reach, you can better tailor your messaging and your products to appeal to them.
For example, if your target buyer persona is a busy millennial mom, you may create social media marketing content that gives time-saving tips for a family dinner using organic ingredients.
Still not clear? Let's dive into a few more details on how to create a buyer persona:
Start with the basics. Who are your existing customers? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? Gather as much information as possible about your existing customer base.
Take it a step further. Once you have the basic information about your current customers, start to delve deeper. What are their motivations for buying your product or using your service? What customers' pain points are they trying to solve? What do they value most? The more specific you can be, the better.
Get creative. Once you have all this information, start to paint your ideal buyer persona. Give them a name, age, and job title. The more detailed you can be, the better.
Use your customer personas to guide your marketing tactics. Now that you have a clear picture of your target customers, you can use this information to guide your marketing efforts. For example, what kind of message will resonate with them? Where do they spend their time online? What kind of offers will appeal to them? A well-defined buyer persona will help you make smarter marketing decisions and, ultimately, attract and retain more customers.
Keep in mind that it's essential to be realistic when persona targeting. Trying to appeal to too many people will result in a diluted message that doesn't resonate with anyone. So take the time to hone in on who your ideal customer is, and then craft a marketing strategy that speaks directly to them.
Tip #2: Get beyond generalizations
Generalizations are the bases of most marketing strategies. But if you want to connect with your customers, you need to get beyond those one-size-fits-all approaches. For example, how often do we make sweeping statements that don't apply to anyone? "All men love sports!" "All women love shopping!" These sorts of generalizations are not only untrue, but they're also ineffective.
A more effective marketing strategy is to get beyond generalizations and ladder up to the functional needs of your customer. What does that mean? Simply put, it's connecting with your customers on an emotional level. This technique starts with a generalization about your customer and then moves to increasingly specific insights.
Here's a good example. Let's say you're marketing a new type of toothbrush. The functional need is obvious—people need to brush their teeth! But the emotional need might be something like feeling confident and attractive.
In this example, you might start with the generalization that your customer is female. From there, you might move to the insight that she is a young professional. And from there, you might move to the sense that she wants whiter teeth to gain confidence in her workplace. Establishing this emotional connection makes you more likely to create a memorable customer experience and a lasting relationship.
Tip #3: Engage with your customers
How do you establish a connection when information consumption nowadays is incredibly fast-paced? How do you ensure that your message is getting attention? Engage. And be exceptional at it.
Talk to your customers like they're people, not just numbers. Do you know those email marketing letters that sound like a robot wrote them? The ones that say things like "Dear Valued Customer"? Yeah, don't do that. Instead, take time to personalize your communications and show your customers that you value them as individuals.
Show them some love. Everyone loves to feel appreciated, and your customers are no exception. Show your appreciation by giving them exclusive deals, early access to new products, or simply showing some personality in your marketing communications. Something as simple as a handwritten note can go a long way in making your customers feel valued.
Make it easy for them to connect with you. Make sure your contact information is prominently displayed on your website and make it easy for people to reach you. No one wants to jump through hoops just to get in touch with a company.
Always be responsive. This one should go without saying, but it's overlooked often. So make sure you respond if someone takes the time to reach out to you, whether via email, reacting to your social media posts, or even good old-fashioned snail mail. Nothing is more frustrating than being ignored, so don't ignore your customers!
Tip #4: Understand how your customers consume information
Now that you know how to tug at your customer's heartstrings, you need to figure out how best to deliver your content marketing. With ever-increasing devices and social media platforms, you must understand how your consumers get the most value out of your marketing message.
Some customers are scanners. They don't have much time, so they quickly scan headlines, headings, bullet points, and images to determine if they want to read further. If you can capture their attention with a snappy headline or intriguing photo, you'll likely keep them engaged long enough to make your case. Case in point: listicles (articles in list form) are viral right now because they provide quick, digestible bites of information that are easy to scan.
Some customers are readers. They like detailed explanations and enjoy reading in-depth articles, whitepapers, or ebooks. If you cater to this group, be sure your copy is well written and contains substance.
Some customers are viewers. They prefer watching videos or looking at pictures over reading text. And why wouldn't they? In today's age of instant gratification, a two-minute video can often convey what would take several paragraphs (or even pages) to explain in writing.
Some customers are listeners. They like podcasts or other audio formats because they can multitask while consuming the content (i.e., listening while driving or working out). In addition, this group is usually pretty savvy regarding technology, so they may also appreciate being able to speed up or slow down the playback, depending on how much time they have.
Knowing this, how can you identify which group your consumers belong to? Again, it goes back to target market research: surveys, interviews, focus groups, or even just asking questions through social media.
Here are a few guide questions to ask:
How do you like to access info? (in-person events, online events, RSS feeds, email, social media, ads, etc.)
What topics interest you? (news, business, technology, lifestyle, etc.)
Why do you access info? (to be entertained, informed, educated, etc.)
How much info do you want to receive? (long-form, short-form, daily, in the mornings, etc.)
Who influences you? (social media, thought leaders, friends)
Tip #5: A customer-first strategy has to be driven from the top
Marketers today are under more pressure than ever before to deliver results. However, the landscape is constantly changing, and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. As a result, you may find yourself continually looking for new and innovative ways to implement your customer-first strategies.
That's well and good. But for this approach to be effective, you need to get the buy-in of everyone in the organization. We're talking from the top down. Your leadership needs to buy into the idea, drive the strategy, and set the tone for the rest of the organization. From there, it follows that everyone—your marketing managers, your sales team, your front-line employees, even your strategic partners—need to be trained on "putting your customers first" as your key brand messaging.
Customer-first marketing can be a powerful tool for driving growth and building sustainable competitive advantage when done correctly. However, if it's not driven from the top, it will likely fail to deliver results.
If you don't put the customer first, someone else will.
There are no two ways about it; if you're not putting the customer first, someone else will. And they'll probably get the business. It's just that simple.
Need some guidance on performing proper and organized market research to determine your target persona? Reach out to us. We can help!