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How to create a customer-centric brand strategy

28th Apr 2020
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Did you know that brands with a superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors?

One thing has become increasingly clear in recent years – consumers care about the relationships that brands build with them. Furthermore, with the advent of technologies like personalization, they’ve come to expect that brands will understand their unique needs and desires. This has resulted in the emergence of customer-centric marketing.

Customer-centric marketing isn’t just a one-off campaign that connects with customers. It’s a fundamental attitude that’s entrenched in an organization’s culture. A standalone, targeted campaign can’t hold a candle to a brand that constantly keeps a pulse on their customers.

A lot of thought needs to go into creating a customer-centric brand. Let’s explore a few tried-and-true tactics that help brands create offerings and experiences that truly resonate with customers.

Why are Customer-Centric Brands on the Rise?

In the words of Harvard Professor Ted Levitt, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.” Customers care about what your product can do for them – and not so much about what your product actually is.

One product can have a lot of different uses. Think about baking soda – it's used for cooking, neutralizing odors, cleaning, or even classroom science projects. The primary variable in all its use cases is not its product design, it’s how consumers intend to use it.

It helps to narrow your focus to one market and fulfill the needs of that specific market segment completely instead of trying to be everything at once.  This is likely why two out of three marketers say they compete with other brands largely on customer experience.

Focusing on a specific market segment allows you to better cater to your customers, providing them with better service.  This will not only help your brand gain a concrete identity, it will help you find high-value customers that will become increasingly loyal to a brand that has their best interests top-of-mind.

Product-Centric vs. Customer-Centric Strategies

In the past, almost every business strategy was product-centric. Instead of focusing on the consumers that buy the product, they focused solely on the product they brought to market. They sought to create the best products and hoped its inherent qualities would set them apart from the competition.

A product-centric approach is still viable for some, especially brands that sell basic or niche goods. For example, think of the ethernet cables you use at home. Do you know who made them, and what that company stands for? Chances are, you don’t – you saw that a basic product solved a need and purchased it.

However, customer-centric campaigns are ideal for markets that are a bit more specialized and saturated. Think about Apple – they sell laptops and phones against a whole swath of competitors with similar offerings. So, they put the customer first and try to create an end-to-end technology experience for customers. Then, they know happy customers will spread the word about their offerings – helping them get a leg up on competitors who focus solely on specs.

Don’t worry, these aren’t strict schools of thought. You can think of your strategy as a sliding scale, and you can fall anywhere between two extremes. However, once you determine where your organization should fall on the scale, make sure your marketing strategy is consistent with your business strategy.

Creating a Customer-Centric Culture

You’ve decided to adopt a more customer-centric approach for your business. Now, this isn’t a task to offload onto the marketing department. Every team needs to play a part in the customer’s journey through every level of the organization. The CEO needs to take this to heart in the same way front-facing store employees do. Every team needs to empower other teams to constantly put the customer first.

Don’t gently dip your toes into a customer-centric approach. The whole organization needs to commit to making customers the central focus of their strategy. From product development, to promotion, to delivery – every piece of your organization contributes to how consumers perceive your brand.

Crafting Customer-Centric Campaigns

The first roadblock that most brands experience when creating customer-centric campaigns is a lack of granular customer data. Brands can’t throw entire concepts at the wall and see if the strategy sticks – some forethought is necessary.

Brands need to invest in technologies that can collect and analyze person-level, segment-level, and market-level insights to build customer personas. These personas are designed to simulate a real customer’s attitudes and help brands get a tangible idea of their target consumer. This will help them create processes and campaigns around a single, data-driven concept.

Always test and verify your personas. Try sending out two slightly different messages to their market segment using a concept called A/B testing and see which message gets the most attention. Was it the one you thought they’d like? If not, you can quickly course-correct future campaigns for maximum impact.

Understanding Customers with Data & Technology

Gathering customer data is the first step to creating impactful campaigns for your target consumer, but without the right technology, it’s difficult to turn raw datasets into anything meaningful.

Brands should initially search for trusted sources of data through open data repositories run by trustworthy organizations. As their strategy progresses, they should capture data from their own campaigns to provide more granular insights. Finally, they should regularly perform data quality checks to constantly hone their understanding of the customers.

Focus on collecting data that helps you determine key insights about your most valuable customers, like customer lifetime value and churn rate. Then, invest in a marketing analytics platform with data vetting, real-time data, and a variety of ways to metabolize that data.

Examples of Customer-Centric Brands

It can be difficult to understand what a customer-centric brand truly is – until you see one in action. Several brands are already making leaps and bounds in customer-centric strategies, and aspiring customer-centric organizations could learn quite a bit from their approach.

  • Trader Joes, a grocer in the United States, has the highest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) score. Their secret? Engaged employees that are trained to always put the customer first, a relaxing retail space, and offering interesting, niche groceries that interest their target market.
  • Apple, a multinational technology company that used to compete for consumers neck-and-neck with Microsoft – but their customer-centric approach put them several steps ahead of the competition. Apple evaluates the types of technology that consumers desire and connects them with an end-to-end experience geared towards simplicity.
  • Glossier, a beauty that’s nestled itself into the niche of online make-up and skincare enthusiasts. They always have a pulse on the consumer – they want to know what tutorials they want, which influencers they like, and have worked with customers to co-create products.

Final Thoughts

Many companies struggle to create a brand that truly resonates with customers straight out of the gate. Making the customer central to your company is a massive organizational change, and requires a continuous analysis of customer data to understand what they truly want.

With the help of a fully-fleshed out strategy and advanced analytics, however, brands can find their footing much faster and reap the rewards that come from a truly customer-centric strategy.

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