How Customer-Centric Marketing is Core to a Successful Business
In a market that’s more and more challenging every day, leaders must develop new value creation and forms of competitive advantages for their business. Success will come with a holistic approach and silos are one of the biggest failure points. All areas need to be analyzed at the same time:
- Business Modeling
- Culture & Change Mngt
- Product & Design
Some might not always consider marketing important (especially in B2B). However, Marketing is essential for rolling out a project presenting the right added value. Today Marketing needs to be customer-centric, meaning aligning the tactics to customer needs and interests. Being customer-centric pays off at a time when customers want uniqueness and personalization. 80% of customers reported being more likely to purchase if a company has a personalized approach. It is no longer enough to target segments, companies need to target individuals with all their differences. Even in a B2B market, we do not approach the market with solutions, but with use cases at the end of the process, we sell to an individual with a specific need.
How to make sure marketing is accounted for in an overall business strategy? Here is a list of areas to focus on and, most importantly, why they are critical to the health and success of a business:
- Branding & Vision
- Personas & Positioning
- Channels & Touchpoints
- Content & Tactics
Branding & Vision
Most people consider visual elements like the logo and colors when thinking of a brand. However, these visual elements only comprise a fraction of the brand elements. And while organizations may structure their brand very differently, the foundational building blocks consist of the: Purpose, Mission, Values, and Vision.
These building blocks make up the core elements of the organization. This cannot be overstated! These should guide the company’s subsequent decisions, including the visual elements like logo and colors but also decisions that seem more removed like hiring, partnerships, and future growth. While the core brand elements are used to guide employee actions and decisions, they also set consumer expectations and play a significant role in their attitude and perception of the organization.
An organization’s Purpose explains why it exists. The Mission is usually conveyed in a statement and includes what the organization does. Values are principles that guide how work is accomplished, and the Vision includes the organization’s aspiration for what it hopes to accomplish in the long term.
Personas & Positioning
One of the most common errors businesses make is willing to be everything to everyone, thinking that by addressing the largest market, the probability of success will be higher. While a seemingly logical thought – this could not be further from the truth. It is important to define who the product or service will benefit and how it will help solve their specific problems and achieve the things that matter to them.
Using the 80/20 rule, meaning we can expect 80% of our revenue to come from 20% of our customers, this 20% serves as the lifeline to the business and, as such, it becomes imperative that we get to know them and have an intimate understanding of their problems and desires. Without this deep knowledge of our target customers, we are ill-equipped to present them with solutions (via products and features) that help them achieve their goals. Data, both quantitative and qualitative, can be used to understand better who your target market is, the characteristics that make them unique, and create offerings that achieve product-market fit.
For example, the Value Proposition Canvas is a tool that can help identify gaps that may exist in achieving product-market fit. In reality – it is two tools in one. The right side – the customer profile – is a place to summarize notes from user discovery work. The left side – the value map – summarizes the product or service being designed. This activity helps a team focus on defining if the products/services they offer help alleviate their target customers’ pains and/or help them attain their desires.
A Customer Profile identifies:
- Customer Jobs – What customers are trying to get done in their work and/or in their lives. These can be social, functional, or emotional. Key question: what do they need or hope to do?
- Pains – Negative outcomes, risks, and obstacles related to customer jobs. Key question: What frustrates them or impedes their road to achieving their goals?
- Gains – Outcomes customers want to achieve or concrete benefits they are seeking.
Much of the information required to answer these questions come directly from the target market like customer interviews, empathy mapping, surveys, market research, etc. However, the information is acquired if the Customer Profile is not completed with confidence – it is a likely sign that understanding of the customer is required.
The second tool of Value Proposition Canvas is a Value Map focusing on the offering/s and identifies:
- Gain Creators: How products and services create customer gains. Key question: How does the product lead the customers to the gains they seek?
- Pain Relievers: How the product or services alleviate customer pains. Key question: How does the product minimize or eliminate the pains the customer experiences?
- Products and Services: the product or service fit. Key question: What offering – product or service – is being considered?
If we marry the Value Map with the Customer Profile – with the product solving the pains and achieving the gains of the customer – congratulations – the market fit is achieved! But – none of this would have been possible without true knowledge of the target market and what motivates them. It is also possible to work the Canvas in reverse – helping to identify the characteristics of an emerging market in which the product or service might gain traction.
Fig1 – Value Proposition Canvas
Channels & Touchpoints
Over the last ten years, the customer journey has changed dramatically. From a linear model, we went on to a fish model, then to what I call today a spider web. I would argue we have found the shape of the journey barely matters. It is the power of knowing customers so well that we can lay out the path of least resistance to move them from prospect to customer, customer to repeat purchaser to superuser to the vocal endorser of your product.
It used to be quite easy to understand what path customers were taking because there were few options. Social media started to complicate the pattern as customers took the reigns of content distribution and created and influenced trends. This was a complete change. However, customers’ journey maps were not as complicated yet. We would take an omnichannel, omni-messaging approach to solve the different touchpoints.
Today, with the growing use of AI, more elements are influencing and complicating the customer’s journey:
- The number of channels is growing (chatbots, VR, …)
- Customer’s interests
- Past behaviors
- Reactions to information they are presented
- Actions across channels
- Keywords searches
- Sentiments that trigger actions…
The richness of information complicates brands’ interactions with customers as they need to account for more variables in the messages they are crafting.
The beauty of all this data is that we can understand the customers more precisely and target them way better. Marketing actions are more efficient. The proof is that we are seeing a conversion rate five times higher with targeted emails than with mass communication.
However, if a brand wants to benefit from all this data and get more granular information about its customers, it becomes more complicated. The journeys have more connection points and more decision branches.
Creating a customer journey map has a lot of benefits and can help beyond understanding customers’ behaviors. It can help for:
- Decision-making: understanding what is and what is not working can help target customers that bring the highest ROI.
- Better marketing budget allocation: some channels are more efficient than others and some segments are not worth pursuing. Such exercise can therefore help better refine SEM costs and allocation.
- Highest ROI: each marketing dollar spent will be more efficient because more targeted
By knowing the customers better and especially by identifying the best segments, reactions, and channels, we can improve their experience.
- We can get them to what matters faster: based on the personas, different website experiences can be created. Not every customer is supposed to have the same experience. With the progress in digital, we come to a point where each customer can have a unique and tailored experience, not only using recommendations but also imagery, colors, and actions based on brain structure and eye movements.
- We can streamline their experience: the sea of offers, content, and information customers have to go through is overwhelming nowadays. Nobody can take as much on, so they must focus on the first pages or clicks. If they are not quickly served the information they are looking for, or that corresponds to their tastes, they will leave. Our goal should always be to make their life easier.
- We can inject relevant content at the right time, helping fasten conversion: We call these micro-moments, where customers can access a video, for example, that gives them more insights about the product without being intrusive. Native ads can also be used to achieve this result.
- We can nudge the customer at the right time, removing friction, so open rates are higher.
- We can retain customers by quickly serving them what they want to see or know. In the future, a customer getting to a site may not even have to go to another one as the site will adjust immediately to what they need (offer, price). This will make the need for comparison and research unnecessary as it will be done for them in real time.
Technology has evolved so much and will help in the execution of the strategy, but it will not know where to put the emphasis. AI has some capabilities for optimizing for what seems to be the most profitable segment. However, it is based on the activities it sees happening. If the website is not doing the right work by targeting the needed persona, the results might be biased. Let’s not forget that AI needs a maestro to be efficient. A business needs to know its goals and deploy the technology that will help achieve those goals. No technology today can tell an organization what its goals should be.
Subsequently, trends captured by technology need to be analyzed and vetted against the defined goals. Getting this data could also be a way for an organization to go in a different direction if the initial strategy was wrong. This data has to be carefully analyzed to determine if it is the trend to follow or an underlying trend inferred by a particular situation. It means that human needs to be able to define if the trend is episodic or represents a real direction for the business. Customer journey maps are here to understand if things are on the rails or if they are deviating.
The customer journey map is one of the strategy tools that each company should have, as it is difficult to steer a company in the right direction without knowing who the target customers are and what is needed from them.
Content & Tactics
Products are often judged by metrics driven by marketing, so it is imperative that when it is time to get in front of the customer, we get it right – or at least close (there is always time to iterate and improve). As our product or service enters the market, we have likely spent time developing a Go-To Marketing Strategy and a robust Content Strategy that has assessed the best channels to reach our target market. These are important steps to understanding the best ways to reach the audience and lay the groundwork and guidelines for the type of content that should be created to support the strategies developed.
Content is often the product’s first impression on a customer, so it is important that all content clearly articulates the most compelling value propositions in a way that resonates with them and feels personalized to them. Content can include imagery, messaging/copy, video, articles, blog posts, ads, etc. Content should be engaging and intentional with the measurable goal of moving both prospects and customers to the key moments in the customer journey. Consistency of content – that aligns with the brand strategy will help build brand awareness and, over time, customers’ trust.
As marketing technology continues to mature, the opportunities for gathering data insights on content effectiveness with our target market increases. Agile marketing teams often include specialized roles such as data scientists and audience managers that can help marketers leverage technology to identify and build audiences as well as ensure data signals are set up correctly to track key metrics aligning with KPIs. This data allows marketers to provide personalized experiences to very specific audiences.
The ability to view and analyze all available customer data insights on how to most efficiently move prospects and customers to the desired action is paramount to success. From this vantage point, teams can determine what the key moments of their user journey are, but also which influencing efforts – both paid and unpaid – are most likely to help a customer find their way to that key moment and convert. Here is an example:
- From available data, we identified that prospects visiting the website from a Pinterest video ad who view 3+ pages are 30% more likely to become customers.
- Armed with this information, we ask ourselves:
- What can we do to encourage this series of events through the content we present?
- How can we test our ideas?
- How do we measure success? Are the data signals set up to give us the information we need?
- Are the teams set up to quickly iterate based on the findings and scale once a winning solution has been found?
Once we uncover the winning combinations that drive prospects to convert and engage customers, we can use them to align business units across an organization and to inform prioritization and budget decisions to increase the lifetime value of customers.
Marketing is a core element of the Business Design practice. Organizations cannot neglect it at any stage of their development. A project needs to answer organizational needs and customer needs to be successful. How it is going to answer it and how it will be positioned internally and externally are critical to its success. How many times do we see projects failing for lack of adoption? The product might be great, but it has not been sold/positioned correctly to make it successful at launch. No, the quality of a product cannot do it all; it needs marketing support. Business design ties everything together to ensure the highest success of a new project.