Being Customer-Centric Isn’t Just About Brand Reputation, It’s About Insight, Too

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Customer-centricity is a misunderstood concept.

Often, people see it as a way to increase brand reputation but, as evidenced by frequent, unsolicited product feedback and customer service queries on social channels, it can be the source of a whole lot more, including better, more focused marketing and product development insights.

One component is personalizing your relationship with customers – for example, a 2013 Email Marketing Survey by Experian found that personalized mailings result in 29% higher open rate and 41% higher click through rates (CTRs) than non-personalized emails.

The rewards of personalizing the experience that customers have with your products, services, and marketing are potent, as marketing / brand strategist Shelly Kramer notes when talking about direct marketing:

Based on the data Target has on me and based on my purchase history, the retail giant knows that I have young daughters and that I like certain types of clothing and other items that girls like. As a result, Target can (and does) send me personalized messages via text or even special deals and coupons through its recently launched Cartwheel app, targeting the things they already know I like to purchase.

The insights gathered from being customer-centric allows brands to adjust their market strategy and communications, but it can also be used to improve service, develop better products, and enrich the customer experience / increase loyalty.

Here, ArCompany CEO and founder Hessie Jones talks in her recent book with Daniel Newman about what it means to build around your customers…

Companies have traditionally built better mousetraps, expecting the market to follow. Consumer Package Goods Companies (CPGs) continue to innovate on existing products. QSRs follow the same model. While both have the ability to build a ‘functioning” CRM program, the limited data access to consumer usage and attitudes of their products “at scale” has limited the degree to which these programs could be truly successful.

It has been even more difficult for franchised models to understand the “local” customer’s usage patterns to the degree of identifying those who frequent the store. But now that data exists and can be made available locally, the opportunities are endless.

Yes, companies are listening. Yes they are engaging with their customers. They are taking this one step further to being able to identify Joe Parker, teacher from Bayview Glenn, who stops into McDonald’s by Bayview and Eglinton in Toronto every morning to get his large double double and  McMuffin? (Note: fictional scenario)

Technology now exists to identify the most passionate discussions: consumer generated content about a brand. We need to go beyond the Like and look at the profiles of our Fans and Followers, our detractors and advocates. We also need to look at their behavior to determine those most likely to inhibit or move the brand message.

We can now piece together and aggregate the check-ins, the picture uploads, the tweets, the reviews and the discussions to find those customers that matter the most to a brand, or have the potential to matter.

But things have to change….

Joel Marans, Digital Marketer at Soft Choice, turned my attention recently in a presentation that catalogued the 30 Best Creative, Design and Marketing Quotes. In it, I found this quote from Seth Godin:

Don’t find customers for your products. Find products for your customers.

I think we are fooling ourselves into thinking we really know who our customers are.

Where value has traditionally been defined by how much a customer is contributing to the bottom line, the “CRM” school of thought also defines the brand/customer relationship as a “Value Exchange.”

In the digital world, this definition has evolved into ”Consumers raise their hands and receive content that’s relevant at that moment. In exchange they reward advertisers that deliver.”

In social, true value exchange should be as transparent as its meaning: a product or service that meets the needs of its customers; something customers are willing to buy and to advocate.

How does this differ from the traditional view? The customer now becomes a partner and stakeholder in defining that product or service. Suddenly, this becomes a variable that can create greater sustainability for the brand. Inevitably, the product-centric company will evolve to ensure that it iterates alongside the market… and becomes less product-oriented in the process.

It’s inconceivable to think that this can occur outside of an organization… or so goes the thinking.

In a world that’s filled with the sound of billions of brand discussions, companies can no longer ignore these external messages, or their eventual impact on the company performance and reputation. It’s time to rethink business and focus greater time and energy on truly knowing the customer.

ArCompany works with C-suite leaders across the United States and Canada to align brand reputation and insights gathering so that companies can go from creating at customers to creating with them. If you’d like to learn more about working with us, say hi.

Photo credit: via photopin (license).


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