In recent months, I’ve had the pleasure of joining panels and attending industry events focused on the evolution of customer-centricity. A common theme that is top of mind everywhere is having the customer at the core of the marketing strategy.
The customer’s buying behavior has changed. As the consumption of products and services continues to evolve, so will the buyer’s behavior. The decision to purchase is no longer a linear process and there is less emphasis on face to face interactions. As an example, think of the way we used to purchase software. Research was completed through word of mouth or a physical retail outlet, your order was completed through an in-person associate or a vendor over the phone, and you then received delivery of your “CD-ROM” – sometimes several weeks later, depending on the channel you used. We now research through customer reviews, sometimes within a 30-minute timeframe, order online, receive an email, and download in seconds. The customer’s “research to purchase” journey – compressed into a shorter window – begins digitally. This evolution has forced a massive shift in the function of marketing, and the overall way we do business.
Marketing has evolved, and its function has transformed
As modern marketers, you are now competing for mindshare in both the physical and the digital world. And as business leaders, you need to stay one step ahead of your customer’s demands – both on and off-line. You need to prescriptively invest in practices that create lifelong relationships, not just transactions.
Putting customer centricity at the core of your business can be achieved with a few basic principles.
Create a memorable experience
51% of customers say most companies fall short of their expectations for great experiences. *
Today’s customers expect a good experience and that experience needs to be memorable. We market and sell in a noisy world and we need to find ways to connect to an entirely new level. Customers want to feel that you have their best interests in mind and that they are connected to something personal – perhaps even emotional. When you provide customers with a personalized experience at the individual level that goes beyond “transacting”, you own that customer relationship for a lifetime.
Connected Touchpoints – Everyone plays a role
Today’s media landscape is fragmented with so many channels, that the integrity of a brand and the company mission can be lost in the noise. When you give your customers a consistent experience across all touchpoints, the customer feels connected to your brand. Consistency across all touchpoints – from your website to your social channels, to your call center support and sales team – is key to making customers feel loyal.
Data-driven marketing approach is the foundation of any form of personalization
With customers relying on digital channels to complete research, we have lost the art of the relationship that comes from the face to face dialogue.
70% of buyers fully define their needs on their own before engaging with a sales representative, and 44% identify specific solutions before reaching out to a seller. **
However, the good news is that data provides powerful insights into your customers’ digital behavior and reveals their preferences. This powerful tool can help you understand how your customers are searching through digital channels, and more specifically, what they are researching on your website. Imagine how relevant your marketing and selling capabilities can be when you gain the ability to proactively personalize conversations with your customers. Investing in marketing technology empowers you to gain insights into your customers’ preferences – which is truly the power of digital marketing.
Customers can be powerful advocates
On the flip side, while customers are digitally evaluating potential purchases, you also need to ensure that YOUR digital presence is reputable.
Recruiting customers to advocate on your behalf is a powerful way to organically promote your brand. Through Cisco’s advocacy program The Gateway, our customer advocates completed a total of 67K shares, discussions, and reviews in the first half of this fiscal. One customer was quoted as “I love being engaged with my networking peers and being more informed with what Cisco is doing to help our businesses grow” and another mentioned, “As an active user of The Gateway, I thank Cisco so much for thinking in a more personal way towards its customers and not focusing directly on marketing.” Customers will innately trust customer endorsements of your products and services to heavily influence their decisions.
Customers want to know that you have their back
Transparency is the key to keeping customers at the core.
54% of customers say a commitment to safeguarding their data strengthens their loyalty*.
If you can proactively share your plans for customer data in advance and allow them to weigh in, that will drastically change the relationship. Nothing is more frustrating than being solicited by companies you never engaged with, and even worse, learning that a company you trusted has shared your information.
Putting customer centricity at the core
Staying human in your marketing efforts and keeping things personalized provides customers an experience they will always remember. Maintaining consistency in your channels and ensuring everyone in your organization plays a role in the customer experience upholds the integrity of your business.
When you put the customer at the core of everything you do, your customers will show lifelong allegiance to your brand.
*State of the Connected Customer by Salesforce Research, 2018
**Top B2B statistics every sales and marketing pro should know in 2020