Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. If you’d like to see more about its complete history, then I highly recommend this Hubspot infographic.
With the advent of digital marketing in the early 80’s, many companies began to take a serious look at their marketing. They realised that their primarily outbound strategy had to change. Consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated consumers with spammy emails, popups and subtle cookies for following their every move.
Many large CPG companies such as P&G and Nestle changed the name of their Marketing departments to Brand Builders, in the hope of adapting to this new world. But they failed because they continued to run their marketing in the same old way. With few exceptions, it’s still all about them and their brands and not much about the consumer.
Luckily some other consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to consumer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their business. Customer centricity is not a destination because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. (>>Tweet this<<) The aim for satisfaction and delight will never end.
I think we have taught our consumers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They understand that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for their price offs. They realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume might be different, but there are strong similarities in their performance.
That’s why consumers now have a portfolio of brands from which they choose. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand than they used to be. They have come to expect constant innovation so they quickly adapt to the once novel idea and start searching for the next big improvement. According to Accenture’s “Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago.
In response to these ever more savvy consumers, marketing has to change. In the 2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it is confirmed that new skills are now needed. The most sought-after skills today are analytical thinking and customer centricity. Marketing is now as much an art as it is a science. In order to take full advantage of the enormous availability of information about our customers, we can no longer rely on our creativity alone.
How to Know if you’re Customer Centric
Companies which place the consumer at the heart of their business are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and games, and their contact page provides all possible forms of communication. Their advertising is consumer centric and emotional, with the consumer and not the brand as the hero. They involve their consumers in many aspects of their business. (see “The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation” for more on this topic.)
If you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website, or why not complete the C3C Evaluator?
Move Beyond Brand Building
Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are a few of the essential first steps that you need to urgently make to adopt a more modern approach:
- Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.
- Whenever a decision is taken, ask “What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?” (>>Tweet this<<) This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the consumer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.
- Review the language of your website. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do. (>>Tweet this<<) While you’re online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.
- Take a look at your target consumer description or persona. When was it last updated? If you don’t even have a written document clearly describing them, then use C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free here)
- Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.
- Spend time with your front-line staff and consumers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know.
- Share your latest knowledge about your customers with the whole company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2.
These are your starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to a more customer centric approach. If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a new-age marketing approach, download a free sample of my book “Winning Customer Centricity”. The fun drawings in this post come from the book!