‘We’re customer-centric’, ‘put yourself in your customer shoes’, ‘the customer is always right’ – I won’t go on. There are heaps of well-known phrases about being customer-focused – some more eye-roll inducing than others. They’re easy to say, harder to live by.
But, they basically all boil down to one concept – you should care what your customers think and maybe, more importantly, feel.
Being customer-focused is about understanding your customers as much as possible and building your strategy, including your marketing, around that knowledge. And I mean REALLY understanding your customers. Spending 30 minutes cobbling together some vague details about a fictional ‘buyer’, giving them a fancy name and calling it a persona, just isn’t going to cut it.
Creating truly useful personas takes time, but they can help to supercharge your business and it’s possible even if you don’t have any customers yet.
What is Customer Focus and why is it important?
Build it and they will come, won’t they?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s extremely unlikely.
You can have the best idea in the world, hell, you might even have the most outstanding viable product out there, but that alone won’t translate into a successful business. People have to be looking for a solution to the problem you solve.
They need to be able to find out about your product and service, they have to want your solution over others available and be willing to part with their (or their businesses) hard-earned cash for it.
That’s why being customer-focused puts you in a strong position and it starts right from the beginning, in the strategy phase.
Focusing on your customers from the beginning means you can:
- Understand the size of the prize available
- Learn the sweet spot for your pricing
- Know what differentiates your offer
- Establish the messaging that will resonate the most with your ideal customer
What’s the Point of Customer-Focused Marketing?
When you think about it, is there really any other way to be? Well, unfortunately, you can see the evidence of that without looking too hard.
Much of what you’ve read won’t be brand new to you and you may think that elements sound obvious, but if you’ve ever squirmed at a pitch, deleted a sales email without opening it or ignored that LinkedIn connection request, you know many businesses miss the mark.
Even with the best intentions, it can be easy to fall into the trap of just jumping straight in and going for the sell. Often it’s driven by passion, even obsession for your business, but it can also be driven by desperation. Desperation for that elusive sale.
There probably are some examples of brands that have thrown enough at the wall that something has stuck, but let’s not get distracted by some outliers. Although no-one ever turned down a good helping of luck, it doesn’t make for a reliable business plan!
Being customer-focused forces you to look outward more. For example, an inward focus might have you doing the online equivalent of using a megaphone on a street corner and shouting about your amazing features and functionality. An outward focus ensures you connect those features to the benefits they represent to the user. It also means you find out where your customers are and find ways to be helpful to them.
The great news is that being customer-focused actually makes marketing easier. When you know your ideal customers inside out, you know how to help them, what content they are looking for and what tone and messaging will resonate with them. You’re stripping out the guesswork.
Turning Marketing into Sales – Know, like, trust
Customers can’t buy from you without knowing you exist – no matter how perfect your solution might be for them. You’re also much more likely to get that sale when your potential customers like and trust you.
It may take your customers just minutes to get to know, like and trust you, but more likely, it will be months or even years, particularly in the B2B enterprise world. The sales cycle can vary hugely. By having your Marketing and Sales efforts working together (I know, crazy right?) you can help guide your buyers through that journey, giving them the opportunity to get to know, like and eventually trust you.
You want there to be a consistency across your Marketing and Sales – customers should know that they’re speaking to the same company. Having a strong identity can help to draw your ideal customers in.
The role of marketing isn’t over once you’ve got someone to sign up either. There are opportunities to create additional touch points or moments of contact with your customer base, to ensure they have a great experience with you, entice them to spend more and encourage them to keep coming back. Personalised and contextualised communications are a powerful way to position yourself as a helpful partner to your customers.
When you know your customer well you can segment your audience and send them the messages that are most likely to drive those individuals to action.
The Customer Experience
Delighting customers and keeping them coming back is arguably just as powerful, if not more so, than winning new customers. This is why considering the whole life cycle of a customer, and the experience you provide at every stage, can add serious value.
If you’ve not tried Journey Mapping before it can be a powerful tool to help you see the experience from the customers perspective, as well as spotting those all-important areas for improvement. It also prompts you to plan your approach to onboarding customers, issue resolution, upselling, renewals and even cancellations – helping to avoid the dreaded churn.
An important aspect of developing and delivering an outstanding customer experience is to keep the lines of communication open and make sure you’re listening to the ‘Voice of the customer’. Depending on the size, scale and nature of your business this could be setting time aside to speak to your customers on a regular basis (something I’d recommend), all the way through to introducing more formal customer feedback programmes.
Whatever the method, the important part of the process is what you do with the information.
Does Customer-Focused Marketing Work?
Customer-focused marketing definitely has its benefits, but it’s most effective when it’s part of an overall customer-centric strategy.
Having all elements of the business aligned from marketing, through to sales, customer success and product development, you can ensure that you draw customers in with a brand promise that fits with their needs and then deliver and build on that promise throughout the lifetime of that customer.
Although gaining new customers is obviously a goal, keeping them, as you will know, is equally important – but somehow always seems to be the poor cousin of new sales! However, if you can create that elusive brand loyalty, it can lead to customers becoming brand advocates, referring your business to their friends, family and colleagues and helping to drive sales down the line.
The power of positive word-of-mouth should never be underestimated.
And, of course, there are ways to encourage that behaviour in your customers to make it as easy as possible for them to share their great experiences far and wide!