“In marketing, I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss – and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last.” – John Romero
Put your customers first – a simple dictum that rules / should rule any company irrespective of its reputation, size and influence. Putting customers first is the best marketing strategy – when customers are delighted they not only provide repeat business but also spread their influence to attract new customers. Anyone running a business knows that even a small loyal customer base can exert more influence than a large one that is inconsistent in providing business. Putting customers first enables a company to establish its reputation as one that understands the needs of the customers and knows what they require to reach their business goals. This would translate to the company offering products, services, customer service and benefits customized to the needs and expectations of the customers. A marketing strategy that revolves around the customer, would most certainly be the most successful – ‘give them what they want, not what the company decides to offer’. Customers would have no need to look elsewhere when all their business needs are taken care of within the company they have invested in and neither would the company need to spend extra time and money on formulating a different marketing strategy each time.
There is no easy way to keep up with the ever increasing and fierce competition and companies can often be waylaid by this melee. This shifts the focus of the company and they could forget to keep customers first and as a priority. Customers of today are rushed, impatient and loyalty does not come easily since they have so many options to choose. Without the robust marketing strategy that includes keeping customers first and at the centre of whatever it does, a company can find itself fighting a losing battle irrespective of how hard it tries. Customers will leave if they are not made to feel important on a consistent basis.
What all this really translates to is that every choice makes and every marketing strategy a company uses must remain focused on keeping customers first and at the helm of everything. The channels of communication, the messages to be delivered, product design, customer service strategies and other such business operations, ought to be fabricated with the customer’s interest and needs as the focus. Unless a company can build a rapport and relationship with its customers, it would be tough to retain the customers that are so hard to come by in the first place. The ‘closer’ a company can get to its customers, the better would its understanding be of their needs and preferences.
‘Armed’ with this knowledge of its customers, a company is powerful since it can fashion its brands, offerings, marketing strategies and customer service imperatives around putting customers first. Through such consistent efforts, customers will be able to identify with the brand as being one completely fits in with their requirements, represents their company’s values, beliefs and goals. Even on a personal level, customers can identify with a company and its offerings because these would suit their lifestyle and emotional needs – almost like the brand came into existence only to cater to their needs, both business and personal.
What is the best way to put this best marketing strategy of putting customers first into practice? It is obvious – get the answers from the customers. Ask them what you need to know about them. Customers continually interact with a company through different mediums – on-line purchases, social media, in-store purchases, sharing information about your company and many other such methods. This is one way of gathering valuable insights about your customers. The other way is to ask them directly -through feedback questionnaires, on-line surveys, communication via social media, call to action buttons, email communication and even face-to-face interactions. These methods are all part of a marketing strategy that aims to put and keep customers first and to let them know that the company is committed to serve them with the highest quality and standards.
We have discussed previously too that there is no dearth of communication channels for customers and they expect to be served and ‘spoken’ to via their chosen / preferred channel. If a customer interacts with your company via a social networking site, it would be highly imprudent to revert via email or some other channel of communication. In addition, it will not suffice to use the same communication channel without the speed and effectiveness of the response. In order to display that your company puts customers first, respond to them how they want, when they want and with what they want – this will provide that ‘edge’ to your marketing strategy.
Putting customers first is all about taking time and making the effort of truly understanding your existing customer and the target audience. Find out what makes them tick, what are the pain areas for them in their business world, their emotional needs that would make them buy your brand, what they truly like and dislike and what their expectations are from a company and its offerings. When your company truly understands its customer, the service and products would most definitely reflect the customer’s expectations and would be like the answer to their needs – undoubtedly highly preferred by the customers. Consistently engaging the customers in this manner would ultimately lead to loyalty, profitability and brand advocacy – all of which are indispensable to the success and sustainability of a company. Putting your customers first would mean making them look good and feeling good which would mean that they would be happy to be associated with your brand and would want to share this feeling of being valued with their friends and associates. With so much free publicity and the best marketing strategy in play, a company would certainly save huge amounts on any other marketing strategy.
Listening to and understanding customers, is not a one-time task. It is a process and by this definition is continuous and on-going. Consistent active listening must become a habit for any company in order to proactively respond to and anticipate the needs, behaviours and expectations of customers. The basic premise of putting customers first is about thinking from their perspective and viewing your company’s strategies ‘through their eyes and mind-set’.
It is important that customers come to trust and know that they can depend on a company. Putting your customers first will help build this trust but in order to sustain it, this focus and commitment must be consistent. Collecting, collating and analysing customer data takes time and concerted effort, but without these tasks, it would be impossible for a company to understand its customers and their needs. Train and coach your employees – not just the customer service and sales teams – but all employees, to be sensitive to the needs of the customer. Build a culture where service to the customer is a given and anyone who interacts with a customer must put the customer’s needs first and do whatever it takes to ensure that the customer receives due attention and importance.
In a business context, the most important method of putting customers first is by exhibiting work and business ethics. This must be the most robust part of the marketing strategy. Telling customers the truth about the strengths and shortcomings of the product, not exaggerating the benefits in order to sell and delivering on promises all comprise ethical behaviour and this must be part of the company’s culture and vision. The focus must remain on building strong and long term relationships with customers and the only way to do this is to be honest and transparent in all your dealings.
The success or failure of a company is based on how well its marketing strategy works and how consistently it is able to keep its customers first in whatever it does. Businesses that place customers first will reap rich benefits and become hugely successful on a sustainable basis.