This is What Customer-Centric Marketing Really Looks Like

Personalization means far more than just slipping peoples’ first names in, too. True personalization would track customers’ behavior and only serve up messages that are suited to the customer’s interests.

Here are a few other examples of practices that those striving to truly personalize their marketing would adhere to:

  • Assemble the content of email updates according to a customer’s interests and past behavior.
  • Don’t offer or promote things the customer has already replied to or participated in. For instance, don’t send a webinar invite to people who have already signed up.
  • Never promote products or services that the customer can’t use.

Personalization could tip over into the customer service realm, too. One example of a way to do that: Immediately recognize customers from the phone numbers they dial from.

So no more need to find an account number. No more need to explain what you just bought, or what you had called about a week before. It’s all on the customer service rep’s screen. Instantly.

2. True content marketing.

Don’t do sales collateral marketing and then just call it content marketing, okay? Too many companies say they’re doing content marketing when they’re really just investing in more sales collateral.

This may be costing us more than we realize. Recent research from Forrester says:

While B2B buyers overwhelmingly prefer to research, and increasingly buy, products and services via a self-service website, B2B sellers still force buyers to interact with their salespeople as part of the purchase process.” 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by the year 2020.

That’s chilling from a sales perspective, but what gets my attention as a marketer, particularly as a content marketer, is the forcing-buyers-through-a-sales-process part. Customer-centric marketing would never force that process, either with sales reps or with inflexible lead nurturing campaigns.

We’ve seen this before, but I’ll say it again: B2B buyers want to control their own sales process. Even though content has a lighter touch than a sales rep, companies that release these buyers from a sales pitch will do better. And that means doing content marketing – not sales collateral marketing.

True content marketing means creating content that puts the priorities and needs of your audience first. It means that the primary goal of your content is to build and engage that audience.

Sure, your audience should fit the profile of your customers, but you aren’t using the channel to sell. You’re just staying top of mind, building trust and familiarity. So when the day comes that they do need your products or service, you’re the first company they think of.

Here’s one example of true content marketing that genuinely puts its audience first (and will freak out most B2B marketers): mentioning your competitors in your content.

A good example of this is Moz Whiteboard Fridays, where the founder of marketing analytics software company Moz Analytics, Rand Fishkin, regularly mentions competitors by name in his blog posts.

This sends a powerful, if quiet, message. Rand is giving you the full scoop. Not Moz’s blinkered view of the world, subtly designed to make you think there is no other option besides his product.

Audiences love this. It means they can trust you. And despite all the challenges we have about getting our audiences to trust us, we still have one massive advantage. They want to trust us. And they will trust us, at least until we give them a reason not to.

One other attribute of customer-first content: It’s in multiple formats. So the readers get text, and the listeners get podcasts and audio versions of your blog posts. The visual folks get infographics and SlideShares … You get the idea.

3. Retention marketing that blends into customer success projects.

Customer success isn’t just another term for customer service. It’s much more about retention. It’s also yet another facet in the customer experience prism.

What “customer service” means is that we’re going to wait until a customer has a problem and then we’re going to accept a call from that customer and we’re going to help fix the problem. That’s fine, but risky in terms of potentially losing the customer. What about the success measurement of that customer? Success should not be measured in how well we help the customer as soon as there’s a problem. Success should be measured based on the level of success a customer is experiencing right now versus their potential success.

Here’s how Luke Smith, Act-On’s Regional Director of Mid Market Sales, defines the difference between customer service and customer success:

So what we’re talking about is basically “Continuing Ed” for your customers.

If you do this well, of course, you will retain more customers. And have happier and more successful customers. That’s likely to get you some nice referral business.

But don’t focus on the benefits to you. Those business benefits are a byproduct. Aim to give your customers what they need – in the formats they want it in, and in places where they can find and access it without a hassle.

4. More ungated content.

We’ve talked about the pros and cons of gated versus ungated content before. “Gated” means that a user has to give over some piece of information (usually their email address and their name and title, etc.) in order to get access to a particular piece of content.

This is good for lead generation and lead nurturing, but a lot of people hate it. Especially if you ask for their phone numbers.

There’s also some alluring research that suggests that not gating content, but offering a lead gen form next to the ungated content, actually gets more leads.

Whether you agree with this or not (we recommend testing it), it’s undisputable – not gating content is a tactic that puts your audiences’ needs and wants ahead of your own. If they had total control over how you promoted your company to them, they’d probably want to skip the long tedious forms. Even the short forms, actually.


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