How to Execute a Customer-Centric Marketing Strategy

To win with marketing, focus on your customers' needs — not yours — and engage them at every point in their journey.
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Nowadays, personalized is better. Make the most out of your marketing strategy by tailoring it to your customers needs. (Photo: Ellagrin/Shutterstock)

Marketing is no longer a one-way, one-size-fits all undertaking that focuses more on products than customers. Today, the most effective marketing strategies, no matter the size of the business, start with customer needs and speak “with” customers (not “at” them) at the right time, in the right place and in personalized ways that resonate.

Marketing experts offer this advice to help you pull off the kind of strategy that offers maximum return on investment.

Start with your customer

To you put your customers first, you’ll need to understand them. Questions you should be able to answer, said Hussein Hallak, founder of startup consultant Supirio Consulting, include:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What key problems do they want solved?
  • Why is it important for your customers to solve these problems?
  • How do your customers want to solve these problems?

A customer survey can help you learn more about your customers. The answers, if you’ve designed your survey right, should help you see them as individuals with needs that you have the power to fill.

Be a resource at each touchpoint

Effective marketing offers help, support or inspiration at every point in the customer’s journey on the path to purchasing, which your customer journey map identifies. In general, steps in the journey include awareness, consideration, purchase, use and upgrade or replacement, though your customers’ journey may be different.

If you are an electronics retailer, for example, you can endear yourself to customers by using social media to demystify confusing technology and help them comparison shop. After purchase, you can enhance the out-of-box experience with setup support and upgrade advice.

Customer-centric marketing might even mean reducing traditional pain points in the customer journey by investing money in delivering extras like free shipping, overnight delivery or a generous return policy.

Engage in the omni channel experience

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A successful marketing campaign is human and real, says Jennifer Kushell, CEO at marketing consulting firm Young & Successful Media. (Photo: Jennifer Kushell)

The “omni channel experience” is a relatively new buzzword that simply refers to providing a seamless customer experience across channels and devices.

Listen for feedback from customers on your website, via email, on Facebook and in other social media apps: What are they saying to you and about you? Let their feedback inform how you interact with them.

When you send messages out, choose the “where” carefully. “Make sure you are using the right mediums for your customer segments,” said Kara Cohen, chief executive officer of Transmitter NYC, an NYC-based marketing agency. “Don’t just use whatever the ‘hot new platform’ is. Are you targeting men 35 to 65? Stay off Snapchat and Instagram and focus on Facebook and Twitter.”

It’s also important to choose the right content and tone for the channel. If you’re simply posting your Instagram pictures to Twitter, for example, you’re wasting a lot of potential.

“Don’t be afraid to use a different voice for different channels,” Cohen said. “Just as you wouldn’t talk to a teen coming into your store the same way you’d talk to a 70-year-old woman.”

Personalize your campaign

An old-fashioned campaign blasts a generic message to everyone. Today, customers expect more customization.

“It’s no different than if you have a storefront and talk to customers that walk in the door,” said Jennifer Kushell, chief executive officer at marketing consulting firm Young & Successful Media. “When you send emails, address them by name. Segment your audience and recognize that you might need to talk to different kinds of customers differently.” Regular consumers who know your products should get different messaging compared with brand new customers, for instance.

“You can even use technology to send handwritten notes” with services such as Bond and Handwrytten. “The more you can treat them as if you’re talking one-to-one, the better,” Kushell said.

Business intelligence software — examples include Domo, Periscope Data and InsightSquared — can help you talk to customers in the right ways and places. It brings together data from various sources such as CRM software and marketing analytics to give you insights like where customers are, what they want from your business and how they most like to be contacted.

Keep your strategy fluid

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“[One] thing a customer-centric campaign does is allow you to make adjustments, in real time, with analytics to back your decision.” -Michael Bilello (Photo: Michael Bilello)

“[One] thing a customer-centric campaign does is allow you to make adjustments, in real time, with analytics to back your decision,” said Michael Bilello, founder and chief executive officer of PR and marketing firm Centurion Strategies. “In days of legacy campaigns, when a campaign flopped, it was too late. You had to create a better campaign, and get the client to believe in you again. With customer- or fan-centric campaigns, the feedback can be immediate.”

Use social media analytics, along with website and email analytics, to help you understand which types of messages are working and to which audiences.

Finally, remember that it’s not about transactions, it’s about people. For Kushell, the customer mindset means to “make it human, make it real.”

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