The Future of Marketing is Customer Obsession
By Brittney Sheffield, Commerce Product Manager at Mailchimp
When we speculate on the future of digital marketing, we usually begin with technology, channels, and platforms. Leaving that aside for just a moment, let’s focus on a strategic initiative that will drive successful companies of the future: customer obsession.
Few marketers would disagree that the customer should be satisfied. After all, the idea isn’t new: Early efforts to make businesses focus on the customer date as far back as the 19th century when the department store barons such as John Wannamaker and Marshall Field said things such as the “customer is always right.”
But customer obsession exceeds time-worn principles and slogans. From the top of the organization to the bottom, everything is geared toward building a satisfying customer experience. As a result, customer-obsessed companies build trust and relationships. In turn, these relationships grow the business.
Customer obsession works. According to Forrester Research, customer-obsessed companies report 2.5 times higher revenue growth and 2.2 times better customer retention and employee engagement than non-customer-obsessed companies. But still: Forrester also discovered only 9 percent of companies feel they are genuinely customer-obsessed.
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Speak Your Purpose
Being customer-obsessed is quite different from being competitor-obsessed. Competitor-focused companies wait until others make their move. Customer-focused companies listen and innovate to improve the experience of their customers accordingly.
Being customer-obsessed also manifests differently at different companies: A small-scale startup retailer has one relationship with its customers, hotel chains another. However, all customer-obsessed brands overlap their character with what the customer needs. It’s in that overlapping middle — that part of the Venn diagram where the two circles combine — where the best brands thrive.
Brands must speak of their purpose to get to that sweet spot in the Venn diagram. Customers will want to know what the brand stands for and its driving mission. At Mailchimp, for example, our mission is to empower entrepreneurs — it defines why we’re here and who we’re here for. Companies also need vision: How will you change the world at the most significant scale? Starbucks started as one coffee shop, and yet it grew to create a community around drinking coffee and made an impact now seen around the world.
Finally, companies will need to consider their values and what things they aren’t willing to compromise on. From there, customer-obsessed companies must understand their customers’ needs — even when the customer hasn’t articulated them. This is done through customer research insights, customer conversations, and feedback through surveys.
Customer-obsessed companies dig as deep into their data as their time and budgets allow. They examine customer aspirations and know what their consumers hope to achieve when interacting with your product or service.
Create Unique Codes for Different Customers
Customer obsession must come from the top down — the CEO must be customer-obsessed, not just those in product development, marketing, and sales. Delivering a satisfying customer experience must be intrinsic to every process, from presales to sales to post-sales.
As Mailchimp marketing experts discussed in the recent Masterclass series for both beginning and advanced entrepreneurs, reward mechanisms such as discount codes to loyal customers can play a significant part in any customer-obsessed strategy.
Sending a discount coupon code to a select group of people — such as repeat customers who may be interested in a new or different product or service — builds loyalty while also helping the business to have more control over how many product units they sell at that discounted price.
You can also create unique codes for different customers if your digital platform allows it. Doing this can help track who’s using your coupon codes and establish some predictability around which customers are more likely to buy with this type of incentive.
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How you price your products and services — and how much you discount — is critical. It guides how customers perceive your brand. Of course, luxury brands, for example, sell fewer items at higher price points and often have high profit margins. Meanwhile, businesses in the growth stage may be operating on lower margins per sale. Regardless of your business’s stage or type, it’s important to set everyday prices that allow you to run promotions while maintaining a healthy profitBecause customer obsession means using data, your coupon codes can be used to track how effective your outreach has been. For example, if you’re advertising specific coupon codes directly in different channels, you can use one coupon code in an email, another on social media. Do this, and you’ll get a good sense of what marketing channels drive sales and which coupon codes resonated the most.
Beyond discounts, small gifts build trust and loyalty. For example, if you are an eyewear business, perhaps you could include an accessory with the glasses people purchase from you — an extra case or cleaning spray — something that’s low-cost to your business but valuable to someone buying glasses. Just don’t forget to calculate your profit if you’re offering anything for free. The gift can be part of a bundle offer — they buy a second pair of glasses and get the accessories for free. Your offer can be roughly equivalent to what you are saving on shipping costs by consolidating multiple items into a single box.
Reaching Customers Where They Are
Use multi-channel marketing to get the word out about your promotions and reach both new and existing customers — but continually evaluate your success. You can even use email to generate excitement about your promotions early among your current and most loyal customers.
Social media is a powerful tool for businesses to promote their offers among people excited about their brands. Social media is also vital for interacting with customers and gathering information on customer sentiment. Scheduling tools such as those offered by Mailchimp allow you to set the date and time that you want to post to go out so that you can set it and then focus on other areas of your business.
These strategies apply to any type of business, including those that are service-based, as well. For example, if your service business has a fixed price, you can offer a discount. If the company provides marketing strategies, you can provide clients with a free consultation or discounted hourly rate.
Customer obsession takes on many different forms: For one company, a customer loyalty program is the best option. Others will need to improve customer satisfaction first. Others will need to spend more on customer service options. In all cases, being customer obsessed is a long-term strategy, that when executed well, can create lasting success and drive growth for businesses.
With customer-obsessed companies such Starbucks and many others leading the way, customer obsession will be the marketing motto. Some of the largest companies today have already proven that customer obsession is fundamental to business success; it’s a mindset all marketers and product teams should be eager to adopt.
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