These are anxious times in the marketing world. In the last 18 months, GDPR has gone from distant possibility to present reality. The Cambridge Analytica scandal has raised awareness of data misuse and fueled a rising tech backlash that could lead to similar regulations in North America. Concerns about ad fraud and brand safety persist. Meanwhile, an estimated 20 percent of Americans now employ ad blocking software.
The list goes on.
But if you’re starting to feel a bit anxious yourself—don’t. This dark cloud has a silver lining. In fact, these challenges are not bad news at all. They’re signals. And they’re here to help us make marketing better.
Their message is that it’s time to course correct. To refocus on customers. Not stalking or surveilling them, but serving them instead. Admitting to ourselves that being followed around the internet by the same pair of shoes is not, in fact, a great customer experience. Putting their interests first and providing them with real value across their full journey, beyond the moment of transaction.
We’re standing at a crossroads. For years now, rapid change and disruption have made us anxious. And in our anxiety, we’ve lost our way. We’ve forgotten what marketing—at its best—is all about. Here are six steps you can take to course correct and embrace customer obsession in your organization.
- Take a hard look at the way you manage consumer data. Your goal should be to treat data with respect, to collect and store it with explicit permission, safeguard it with great care and—here’s the most crucial bit—use it with the primary aim of creating more value for customers. Don’t wait for new regulations to force your hand. Do it voluntarily. Do it for your customers. Do it now.
- Up your investment in qualitative research and insight gathering. Customer-obsessed organizations balance data with softer signals to uncover deep human nuance and discover fresh opportunities to improve. If you’re looking for an example to support the business case, consider Jeff Bezos. Amazon wrote the book on data-driven business, but the world’s richest man famously maintains a direct inbox where customers can reach him directly, and he regularly mines it for useful insights.
- Turn your rich new customer understanding into tools that can be widely socialized to instill a customer-centric mindset. Rich portraits of key segments and maps of their full journey to ensure that each interaction is placed in a wider context. Use these tools to ensure coherence across multiple internal teams and agency partners. Update them frequently. Use them to settle disagreements and re-enforce alignment.
- Build on these new insights to define a customer-centric strategy and a set of guiding principles that allows teams to make the best decisions for customers—and for the business—with confidence and at scale. This isn’t about strategy as a series of vague, aspirational statements. It’s strategy as a practical tool, providing focus and dictating prioritization
- Turn this strategy into a unified and simplified set of KPIs to measure progress across all teams and partners. Avoid the trap of short-term channel-centric methods. Instead, use success metrics to drive the right behavior, strengthening long-term customer relationships instead of just pushing for conversions.
- Using your customer-centric strategy as a guide, make an overall shift in tactics and channels away from an over-reliance on data-driven performance advertising and toward a more holistic approach that aims to meet customer needs across their full journey.
In these anxious times, simple solutions are tempting. But each stressful headline reminds us just how risky these shortcuts can be. Following these steps won’t be easy, but it’s important and worthwhile work. Finding a deeper harmony with customers isn’t just a cure for marketing anxiety—it’s a recipe for marketing success.