How Brands Can Build Customer-Centric Marketing Strategies
Nov 29, 2022|Read time: 9 min.
- Customer-centricity, or customer-centric strategy, is an organization-wide commitment to delighting customers through services and offerings built to their needs.
- Customer-centric strategy requires alignment across a company’s teams, efforts, and overall operations in order to delight your customers.
- There are ways to begin moving in the customer-centric direction right now and putting your customer first is a requirement for brands in hypercompetitive industries.
What does it mean to be customer-centric?
All businesses operate with customers in mind, but only some fully utilize the concept of customer centricity in digital marketing, as a business strategy, and a business model.
Customer centric (or client-centric) refers to an approach to business and company culture that emphasizes delighting customers. It focuses on providing the best experience, all with the goal of long-term brand and customer loyalty.
At a high level, customer-centric companies rely on customer touch points to ensure a maximal focus on their experience. Understanding customer behavior on a deep level teaches us to put existing and new customers at the forefront of anything we do.
Common client-centric business practices include:
- Understanding your customers through data
- Identifying improvements based on real-time customer feedback
- Anticipating and prioritizing the changing needs of your customers
- Practicing deep customer empathy by building it into company culture
- Being transparent with first-party customer data
- Providing the best customer onboarding experience
- Being dedicated to customer support and customer success
- Creating exceptional user experience
- Creating content designed to solve problems for your customer bases
- Keeping your internal teams (execs, reps, salespeople, production, dev and design) highly engaged
- Getting rid of unnecessary silos within a company
- Aligning all teams around a set of customer outcomes and goals to establish a customer-centric culture.
- All other initiatives that maximize your ability to operate from a customer perspective
Some common examples of a customer-focused strategy include:
- Feedback — Leveraging your most loyal customers’ feedback on product improvements
- Customer Personas — Development of detailed buyer personas to represent your ideal target customers
- Testing — Beta testing apps or other offerings using members of your target customer groups
- Conceptualization — Starting the new product conceptualization phase with a heavy focus on your customer’s needs and the magnitude of that need
- Alignment — Creating a consistent customer journey map by leveraging a network of highly optimized owned assets, all working in concert to speak directly to your audience
Why is customer-centricity important for brands?
Customer-centricity is a vital part of running a successful brand, and the companies that do it right tend to be the long term leaders in a given space.
Customers are two things; hard to reach and costly to acquire. These are just business facts everyone accepts. One of the keys to reaching and converting customers is to build your structure around their needs instead of various product offerings. “If you build it they will come” is a recipe for disaster.
Focusing on your customers first ensures that your offerings align with customer needs, frames your offerings in the language and content formats that best speak to your customers, and lets you build customer relationships based on their feedback.
Secondly, you have to stay ahead of the competition. No matter your industry, and even if it’s a new category, competition is already there (or will be soon). In markets with heavy competition, it becomes harder and harder to stand out. Brands must figure out how to differentiate themselves from the crowd. One effective method is to go all-in on customer-centricity.
True customer-centricity is less common than you’d think and remains a major differentiator between leaders and normal operators. Not only does customer-centric strategy make you different in the customer’s mind, it actually makes your offerings far more relevant and effective. The closer brands get to this concept, the better the product competitive advantage becomes, and the more irreplaceable it becomes.
Challenges of becoming a customer-centric organization
The benefits of customer centricity are clear but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If every company was capable of customer-centricity, it wouldn’t be such a powerful solution. Between consumer empowerment, the rise of online reviews, and the advent of social media, the landscape has shifted dramatically.
Here are some of the biggest challenges when pursuing a customer focused approach:
Shifting from product-centric to customer-centric
Traditionally, companies created products and services as the first step of doing business. While great offerings are the foundation of any successful enterprise, it’s hard to actually create solutions that perfectly aligns with customer needs.
Companies have always designed things to meet (or create) a real world need within a particular audience but customer-centric takes it a few steps further.
You have to start with your customer at all stages. This includes product development but also, tying everything — all communications, branding, marketing, data and feedback collection — back to what the customer needs.
This can be a monumental task, which is why it can meet resistance. But ultimately, taking on this challenge is one way to win.
Implementing the right infrastructure
Another challenge of shifting to a customer-centric approach is the infrastructure requirements.
Acting on customer needs at a deep level requires data collection, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, a solid customer journey, alignment and optimization of your web assets, methods of collecting feedback, and numerous access points to your actual customers.
Again, this is a complex, multiple phase process that’s time consuming and costly. But brands that truly want to stand out in the marketplace and make the investment will see great future payoffs.
How to Become Customer Centric
The good news is that customer-centricity isn’t simply born into companies, it’s something any brand can build at any time. Becoming customer-centric is a many-pronged strategy and one that must be built to your needs over multiple years.
Start you customer-centricity journey here:
Optimize and align your owned assets
Infrastructure is a major challenge for brands that aim for more customer-centricity. This can include CRM and customer management platforms, feedback systems, and more. But the overlooked aspect is your network of web assets.
Orchestrating the customer journey, a core customer-centric tenet, means that you have to align all of your online real estate to tell your brand story consistently. You also must tell the right brand story depending on where your audience lands in the sales funnel. Breaks in the chain are no joke.
Optimizing your assets involves great storytelling and content, technical superiority, constant iteration, and an overall asset strategy. Until you take this deep dive and make the appropriate investments across your network of assets, your customer-centric strategy will be dead on arrival.
Hire a chief customer officer
Any executive can be a leader in customer-centricity, but it’s wise to hire a chief customer officer or CCO. The CCO role is involved in leading the company’s overall customer-centric strategy and managing the overall relationship with the brand’s customer base.
Bringing on an expert to lead your customer-focused initiatives can help you move towards customer-centricity in larger ways. This is the first step of transitioning over to the new approach, which will also require a small team. Prioritizing customer relationships is worth the investment.
Build a culture of customer centricity
A customer-centric culture is another important part of putting the customer first. If a brand wants to relate with real people and help them achieve their goals, internal alignment is required. This means that your people, at every level, need to operate in a different way.
Every single team should be educated and trained so that their work and professional commitments begin with delighting the end customer. This applies to internally facing teams, not just account management or sales.
Another element to creating a culture unified around the customer is de-siloing various disciplines. Your customer data, production, communications and marketing, sales, account management, and more must play well together in pursuit of the weighty customer focus objectives.
Gather customer feedback
Brands often conduct surveys and post-sale feedback gathering efforts to close the loop. What many miss is how to actually use this feedback to generate actionable insights to help boost customer-centricity.
Customer feedback shouldn’t stop at confirming what you know or challenging you to improve. It should dictate how you operate as a company. The feedback you collect should be analyzed carefully to create new company initiatives that address the fundamental issues customer complaints point out.
Consider your interactions with the brands you buy from. What keeps you coming back? What are your customer service interactions like? And, how hard was it to reach the company? The best rated customer-centric brands give you exactly what you want, make customer service a breeze, and are easy to access. This is a fundamental of customer-centricity.
Amazon, for example, offers extremely fast and easy live chats with agents who actually want to help you. Apple offers personalized services scheduled when it works for you. And reaching the brand is as simple as walking into an Apple Store.
Accessibility is half the battle. Get it right and your brand’s reputation will show that you care about your individual customers.
Metrics to measure customer-centric performance
Like other unique approaches to business, customer-centric strategy has the benefit of measurability. Brands can set any number of KPIs, metrics, and other success goals to get a read on performance. From these metrics, brands can then revise and refine their strategy.
Churn rate, or customer attrition, measures the (usually annual) percentage of customers who stop doing business with a given company. It’s driven by many, many factors including customer experience, branding, and more.
Churn rate formula:
(Lost customers / total customers at the start of time period) x 100
Net promoter score (NPS)
Ever filled out a survey or online review of a brand? You most likely answered a version of the question, “On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this product/company to a friend or colleague?”
That’s net promoter score, or NPS, and it is used to assess customer satisfaction, loyalty, and enthusiasm for a given company.
NPS data is collected from a broad range of customers, who are categorized as detractors (0–6 rating), passives (7–8 rating), and promoters (9–10 rating), which is then aggregated and turned into a score.
Net promoter score formula:
NPS = % promoters – % detractors
Customer satisfaction (CSAT)
Another metric, expressed as a percentage, is customer satisfaction. It’s a key performance indicator that measures product quality and how well customers are engaging with the product. It helps brands assess customer retention as well.
Like net promoter score, CSAT is based on one question: “How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the [goods/service] you received?”
Using a one to five scale, customers can answer in one of the following ways: very satisfied, unsatisfied, neutral, satisfied, or very satisfied.
Composite customer satisfaction score formula:
(Number of satisfied customers (4 and 5) / Number of survey responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers
Customer effort score (CES)
CES measures the overall effort required for a customer to get a given issue with a company resolved. This can include request fulfillment, product returns or refunds, receiving a troubleshooting answer, and more. It’s a key indicator for churn rate.
Customer effort surveys ask the question, “On a scale of very easy to very hard, how easy was it to interact with [brand name]?” and is scored on a numeric range.
Customer effort score formula:
Sum of customer effort ratings / Number of survey responses
Customer lifetime value (CLV)
Customer lifetime value measures the total expected income a business will collect from an individual customer over the entire customer relationship. Essentially, it’s the dollar amount you spend while you remain a customer. This is often compared to customer acquisition cost (CAC) to estimate profitability by customer segment.
Customer lifetime value formula:
Average transaction size x Number of transactions x Retention period
Brands can use the above metrics to get a handle on the success of their efforts to build better customer connections.
If your brand is not centering the customer at the heart of everything you do, then it’s time to make customer-centricity your number one priority. As the digital transformation continues and competition ratchets up, an authentic customer focus not only builds better relationships, it builds better products, too.
The bottom line is that the brand heroes — the true standouts in any industry — reach dominance because they understand their customer and continually reinvest in developing deeper relationships with them. Leaders bring a unique perspective to the world, but tailor it to the needs of customers and tell the stories that truly resonate.