4 Ways to Put the Customer at the Center of Your Marketing Strategy

A great mind once said, “As a man thinks, so is he.” How we think of someone or something guides our actions. 

This brings me to one of the greatest “customer-first” stories ever told. 

In the mid-70’s, a miner walked into a men’s clothing store located in Fairbanks, Alaska to return a set of worn out tires. The retail clerk called a nearby tire shop to get a ballpark estimate for the cost of the used tires, then paid the miner for them and sent him happily on his way. 

Turns out that the Fairbanks retailer had recently bought out a former tire shop where the miner originally purchased his tires. He showed up, perhaps, for his money-back-guarantee and the company no longer existed. 

The retail clerk empathized with the gentleman and made a decision. He wasn’t thinking about the company brand or offerings. Instead, he thought about his customer first, and everything else was secondary; the essence of customer-centricity. 

The clothing store is the renowned retailer Nordstrom and is still recognized today for centering business around the customer. 

In this blog, we will discuss these four things that are inherent in a customer-centric marketing strategy: 

  • the power of empathy 
  • an inside-out approach to leadership 
  • an outside-in approach to customers 
  • measuring your company’s progress to stay on course 

Let’s jump in!

1. THE POWER OF EMPATHY

Some may ask, “Why would a retail clerk return tires?” One word: empathy. 

According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

In short, empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, as our Nordstrom clerk graciously demonstrated. 

The ability to empathize with those within your organization and your existing and future customers is the first step in leading a customer centric marketing strategy. 

Here are some helpful actions to build empathy

  • Take a trip through the funnel. Go through the sales process as a customer of your company. Document the emotions it triggered, strengths, and weaknesses you experienced.  
  • Lean on the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. We all want to be heard, understood and cared for. 
  • Invest time in your front line. Schedule regular communication with your front line representatives to gain their invaluable insights and learn what they need in order to be better equipped to serve your customers. 

Empathy drives how you shape your marketing strategy. 

2. INSIDE-OUT LEADERSHIP

“A business, successful or not, is merely a reflection of the character of its leadership.” — S. Truett Cathy

 

It starts at the top. 

A great definition of a customer-centric organization is a company that withholds the culture where individuals [from the C-suite down] are collectively working to effortlessly and seamlessly fulfill customers’ needs and current expectations at every point of interaction within the customer journey.

Your marketing strategy should be centered around the customer and the impact it has on them. 

Let’s look briefly at those who’ve mastered it. 

When you hear “My pleasure,” you automatically think of Chick-Fil-A, Newsweek’s #1 ranked company in customer service for 2019. Their top-notch customer experience speaks to their customer-centric marketing strategy. 

The result? Loyal customers, CX consistency, and relevance. I will add that Chick-Fil-A makes more profit per restaurant than McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway combined, and it is not even open on Sundays. 

At Salesforce, we’re proud to be named as one of Forbes’ 2019 Top 10 B2B companies thriving in customer experience. Salesforce was also recognized in Fortune’s top 10 Best Companies to Work For. Customer-centricity is at the core of our business strategy, which helps us deliver a connected customer experience to companies, customers and community. 

Here are some things you can implement  within your marketing strategy to help achieve customer-centricity: 

  • Vision – see where you want your company to go 
  • Values – stand on the principles and standards you will uphold
  • Evangelism – spread your vision and values across your organization
  • Empowerment – set up employees for success across departments
  • Execution – set company wide goals and get rolling 
  • Elasticity – stretch and adapt to the ever-changing customer expectations and technology

It’s never too late for a cultural shift.

3. OUTSIDE-IN: VIEW OF CUSTOMER

When I mention the view of customer, I’m speaking of their view… of you! 

Understanding your customers’ perception of your value proposition is the best insight you can gain in order to remain relevant to them. 

Bill Gates says, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Brace yourself for what you may hear. Try out these suggestions to find out what your customers are thinking: 

  • Read reviews and star ratings
  • Social listening on Yelp, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook
  • Surveys and polls
  • Check key performance indicators like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Investigate to find out how customers view your competitors (maybe there are some good nuggets for growth or change)

Observe from the outside-in and take note of the feedback you acquire. And remember the elasticity I mentioned? You’ll need it to make necessary adjustments, like adopting new technology and tools to remain relevant. Here’s a great tool that can help.

4. MEASURE MATTERS

Remember the lines your mother drew on the wall to mark how much you grew over time? You must do something similar for your company to measure progress with your customers. Of course, there are many things to measure and many tools to measure with. 

Some of the more widely used key performance indicators (KPI’s) are: 

  1. NPS – Net Promoter Score. It’s great to know whether you have promoters on your side to spread positive words about your company. You don’t know exactly what factors motivate the buying decisions of promoters, passives, and detractors, but this metric helps gauge how they feel. Be sure to have a data-driven metric alongside it. 
  2. Traffic-to-Lead Ratio.  This does a few things: tracks where visitors are coming from (referral, organic, or direct), what they do once they’ve arrived, and how many convert into leads and become customers. 
  3. Landing Page Conversion Rates. This weighs whether or not your content and landing pages are resonating with your personas. 
  4. CLV – Customer lifetime value. This metric is a predictive metric. It predicts the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer; how much revenue they will generate in their lifetime. 

Be sure to have a good mix of metrics, both data-driven and word-of-mouth recommendation, to give you a realistic view of how your marketing strategy fares. Measure to find out what your customers respond to. 

THE WRAP

Customer-centricity is more than a cool buzzword; it’s a marketing strategy. It should be the common thread running throughout your company culture.  With growing technology and customer expectations, every organization needs to create and cultivate a customer centric core to keep up with their rapidly changing customers. 

To learn more about how to put your customers at the center of your marketing strategy, download our guide: The Customer 360 Playbook.