“Integrated marketing communications is a way of looking at the whole marketing process from the view point of the customer”. – Philip Kotler
In the business world, the top reason for why marketing strategies fail is that they are focused on the company. If your company is not seeing the desired results from its marketing strategies and campaigns via all channels, including its website and social media efforts, then it is very likely that company focused marketing is to blame. Of course, developing products that resonate with customers is essential, it is equally important to practice customer-centric marketing such that customers can perceive the benefits they would receive and also the commitment of the company to meet their expectations. In order to devise a customer-centric marketing strategy that would work, it would be imperative for a company to understand the customer and its competitors. Customers do not care about a company – their only concern is with their problems and making their lives easier. By focusing strategies around their needs and expectations, a company would be able to give customers exactly what they want and how they want.
A customer-centric marketing strategy would find favour with customers since it places each individual customer at the core and ‘heart’ of its design and implementation. Such a strategy clearly elaborates that no customer is ordinary, and each customer is equally valued and appreciated. The fact is that customers have their individual preferences, expectations, and needs, which in turn means that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach would not work. By applying a customer-centric marketing strategy, a company affords itself with several opportunities to ensure customization and personalization in every interaction with individual customers, which is extremely attractive for customers. Customer-centric marketing approach considers customers as a company’s most valuable asset and long-term investment and just as other assets require different ways of managing, customers too must be managed in a unique manner. All the assets of a company deliver value in their own distinct manner – these assets include the company’s customer base.
A customer-centric marketing approach ensures that more customers become engaged and loyal over time. Loyal customers would actively interact with a brand, buying more often, and promoting it to others – diametrically opposite to casual shoppers who buy only when a company offers discounts and incentives. Through customer-centric marketing, a company would have the ability to connect with both these sets of customers in different ways – ensuring maximum customization in the approaches. A customer-centric marketing approach would be able answer the age old question of ‘what’s in it for me’ – something customers deserve to know before they can spend their time and other resources on a company. In order to answer this question effectively and convincingly, a company must proactively let customers know why its service and offerings are the best in the market – especially from the perspective of letting customers know the benefits for them.
A customer-centric marketing would mean that a company understands that it must constantly evolve and stay ahead of customer expectations, such that it remains relevant to the dynamic and ever-changing wants and preferences of customers. Relevance and effectiveness must be part of the foundation of a customer-centric marketing approach. Such an approach will enable a company to ask customers the ‘right questions’, deploy the most appropriate tools and channels for communication, and use these methods and tools effectively such that every communiqué finds relevance with customers. Today, communicating right is part of customer-centric marketing – it is the responsibility of a company to develop and guide the most relevant and appropriate messages to the different customer segments.
Just like with any other customer-focused approach, customer-centric marketing too must have a sequence and a smooth flow. It would begin by first collecting and analysing customer data and intelligence, around which the company would be able to get an understanding of pertinent requirements from customers. Post this understanding, a company would be able to develop products and the process for message development and dissemination. Once the right messages reach the target customers, a company must close the loop by seeking feedback from customers. This takes into account the customer’s desire and ability to engage with companies, and extend the relationship beyond the confines of business. Gaining feedback from customers must form an inextricable and consistent part of customer-centric marketing since it is the surest and most robust means to understand customers truly and strengthen relationships with them.
As mentioned, customers of today are in control. They know they can choose the companies, the products, and even the channel for communicating with companies. It is in the best interest of companies to understand these preferences, by asking relevant and accurate questions, and also responding truthfully to customer queries / questions. This is necessary to ensure the optimum benefit from the relationship, and for keeping the focus on the needs and expectations of customers. Today’s world is highly digitized and reliant on technology. However, a customer-centric marketing approach would focus on keeping communication relevant and personal, and ensuring that technology does not take away from the humane aspect. Hence, it would be necessary for a company to deploy the most appropriate channel of communication when interacting with different customer segments, since communication methods do influence the messages that a company sends out, and customer-centric marketing is all about communicating how and what customers want. It is about understanding how each channel is perceived and experienced by customers, such that every message has the desired effect that would stay with customers for a long time.
When practicing customer-centric marketing, a company must remember not to be tempted to use the ‘newest’ media, but rather use the most appropriate ones. This is possible by incorporating fresh marketing knowledge but only that which complements the existing knowledge base. As marketing channels evolve, they can be combined in varying ways such that their power to influence increases steadily. Today, communicating with customers is not enough – companies must understand which channels customers prefer to use, and become proficient at handling the exchange of communication via those channels. Whether companies agree and understand or not, the fact is that with every purchase and comment, customers are literally managing the branding and marketing of a company. Companies that perceive this would consistently use a customer-centric marketing approach such that customers remain happy and their satisfaction levels increase consistently – extremely important to sustain and increase profitability of a business.
A customer-centric marketing approach not only keeps customers happy, it is also a means for the marketing teams to feel empowered to ‘go after’ the most appropriate and possibly profitable customers. It helps the teams to remain aligned and work cohesively using the customer-centric marketing strategy to drive long-term value to the customers and the business. A focus on customers will ensure offerings and strategies centred on them, which in turn makes customers feel liked and important, leading to increased trust and dependability on a company. A customer-centric marketing approach leads a company to acquire high-value customers, who not only keep coming back, but rake in more business for the company from other customers too. As a result of repeated interactions, customers become loyal and more profitable for a company. Does your company practice customer-centric marketing?