How to align your digital marketing to customers
Imagine you’re in a new city and want to get some dinner. How do you decide where to go?
Some years ago, you would pick up a city map and head over to the nearest restaurant, hoping that the food was good.
But today, that’s not your only option.
Now, you can Google the restaurant before trying it out and read what other customers say about its pricing, ambiance, and food. You can even compare restaurants based on ratings and check out user-posted pictures. Or, you can seek out restaurants serving cuisines you’re craving at that specific moment.
With so much information at your fingertips, it’s much easier to make an informed decision.
For brands, this poses a big challenge.
With the buying power firmly in the customer’s hands, you need more than just good products/services to earn customers. You have to literally court customers.
Your focus needs to shift from making a profit to providing the best user experience to your customers, even before they start their journey with your brand.
And since most modern customers start their brand journeys online, your digital marketing methods need to be customer-centric. If your first impression is outstanding, you have a better chance of beating the competition.
It is. In this post, I will explain step-by-step how to create a customer-oriented digital marketing strategy. But first, let’s dig deeper into its benefits.
Benefits of a customer-first digital marketing strategy
Customer-first marketing means keeping customers at the heart of all your marketing decisions.
This means that traditional metrics, like sales and traffic, are replaced by things like customer experience. From your email copy to the social media influencers you partner with, everything is perfectly-aligned to match your customers’ interests and expectations.
1. You cement customer loyalty
Repeat customers keep the revenue engine running.
In an ultra-competitive ecosystem, it’s more difficult (and costly) to earn new customers than to convert existing customers. So, why not provide a great first experience to your customers so that they keep coming back to you?
2. You earn word-of-mouth publicity
Among the many benefits of customer-first marketing, word-of-mouth publicity is noteworthy.
A single positive customer review can earn you more leads than reams of self-promotional advertisements.
After years of ad-overload, consumers have become more discerning. They can see through self-serving marketing efforts in a minute. That’s why they believe what other consumers say about a brand more than what a brand says about itself.
Plus, millennials love to share their brand experiences and influence the purchase decisions of their fellow consumers. So, if your brand doesn’t measure up to customer expectations, you can be sure that the rest of the world will hear about it.
Since word-of-mouth marketing is so potent, smart brands prioritise customer satisfaction. This way, they ensure that customers have only good experiences to share about their brand.
3. You build brand advocates
Brilliant brands don’t stop at word-of-mouth marketing. They go a step further and shift the marketing role to their customers.
With referral programs, case studies, and testimonials, customers become brand mouthpieces. When they speak for you, it indicates a high level of satisfaction and trust. It encourages other people to do business with you. Also, they can mention your brand name while they post on social media.
Clearly, customer-oriented digital marketing has a lot to offer to brands. Let’s see how to put it into practice.
Building a customer-centric marketing strategy: 3 tactics
No company says flat out that they don’t care about their customers.
But there is a big difference between saying you put your customers first and letting them govern your business decisions — just like there’s a difference between people who claim to be fitness-conscious but eat junk food and those who hit the gym daily.
This means you can’t build a customer-centric strategy until you start looking at things from a customer’s point-of-view. You could designate a “customer advocate” whose only job will be to keep business discussions centred around your customers. You can provide 24/7 customer support by integrating WordPress hosting website with a conversational chatbot.
With customers as anchors, follow the three steps below to build your marketing strategy:
1. Know your customers
You can’t hope to meet your customers’ expectations if you don’t know them inside-out. To dive deep into your their psyche and go beyond basic demographics, here is a three-step strategy:
Do the research. Don’t rely on assumptions when it comes to your customers. To get first-hand, undiluted information about your customers, you can send them email surveys.
Or, you can ask your customer service teams and sales reps about the common complaints and concerns. Check out the interaction history of each customer with your brand. Understand who they are, what they want, and why they came to you in the first place.
If you want to take it up a notch, dig into their social profiles.
Create buyer personas. Combine the customer insights you’ve gained with your imagination and create buyer personas. These are fictional characters that have similar demographics and traits as your real customers.
Personas give contextual depth to your customers and help you with content creation. When you document personas, you create a sort of blueprint that other team members can follow.
Refine the personas. People keep changing, and so will your customers. So, you will need to fine-tune your buyer personas from time to time. To do so, keep communicating with your customers, face-to-face or online.
To stay in touch with your customers 24x7, you can invest in an on-site chatbot. They interact with your website visitors and collect details about their buying preferences, navigation issues, and more.
Since most bots are AI-enabled, they can quickly synthesise user data and find patterns that the untrained eye can miss. For example, they can identify which products/colours/sizes are in demand and gauge a buyer’s potential.
Using these insights, you can keep your buyer personas fresh, precise, and accurate. You can also update your product catalogues and optimise your supply chains.
Take this chatbot by maternity-wear brand, Kindred Bravely, for instance. It uses a quick quiz to learn more about the brand’s Facebook followers (prospective customers). Chatbottle (the bot) stores the information that users provide in its internal database.
From there, the brand can not only learn new customer insights but also utilize them to pitch better.
2. Leverage the power of personalization
Knowing your customers is just half the battle won. You need to harvest the insights you’ve gained to tailor your content and targeting.
Companies that have grasped the importance of personalisation are able to engage and retain customers for the long haul.
Consumers have quickly become accustomed to special treatment from brands by way of personalised emails, well-targeted ads, and hand-picked recommendations. In fact, 72% of people ignore branded messaging that isn’t tailored to their needs, according to a SmarterHQ (SHQ) survey.
What does that mean for you?
You need to ditch the assembly-line approach to marketing. From the timing of your emails to the content of your retargeting ads, everything needs to be personalised.
You need to walk an extra mile to gather specifics about your customers, but without crossing the line.
While following your customers while they browse your website is acceptable, don’t resort to hyper-invasive techniques to snoop on them. It is also not cool to send them push notifications without obtaining prior permission. 63% of respondents in the SHQ survey said they stop purchasing from brands with “creepy” marketing tricks.
So, it’s better to be upfront about gathering customer data. The silver lining is that 90% of people are willing to share their behavioural data in exchange for an easier, cheaper shopping experience.
That’s why you have brands like Nissan providing custom maintenance milestones to each customer. They remind customers when their car service is due with attractive deals if they visit authorised service centres.
But before sending such emails, they flash opt-in messages to their first-time website visitors. This way, they get off on the right foot with new customers.
3. Look at the big picture
To be honest, customer-oriented digital marketing isn’t a quick-return tactic. It gradually builds your reputation as a caring, empathetic brand, which works like equity. With persistent efforts, you will see a surge in revenue.
You will also earn loyal customers and brand advocates, which means fewer hours and dollars to be spent on lead generation. Plus, you will build a customer-first culture in your company, which is the only sure-shot survival strategy in a competition-ridden ecosystem like ours.
But sales-oriented companies often ignore all of these obvious benefits. Since their primary aim is to keep the cash registers ringing, they lose patience with this marketing strategy when they don’t see windfall gains right away.
The truth is that customer-oriented digital marketing complements your sales efforts, but not directly. Sustained efforts, applied as a cohesive team, can produce tangible returns from this strategy.
Ready to put your best face forward?
Digital marketing has evolved from outbound to inbound to customer-centric. Brands that ace this form of marketing can stride ahead of their competition. Over time, they improve customer loyalty, advocacy, brand authority, and eventually, sales.
Do you need more tips on digital marketing? Leave your requests in the comments. I’ll be happy to provide answers.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in influencer marketing, content marketing, and SEO. He is the co-founder of Attrock, a digital marketing agency. He has consulted with Fortune 500...