Customer-centricity is probably the single point that consistently appears on every CMO’s top objectives list. Of course, the dependable marketing motto of right message, right time, right channel still holds, but its main issue is in the lack of definition for what constitutes “right”. Everyone rushed to build a technical stack that could execute on that complicated promise, but not many businesses can say that they have truly answered the underlying question.
Now we have “customer centricity”. It is a great ethos. The idea being that if you do things with your customers in mind, they are more likely to interact. From a content perspective, the challenge is to be relevant. Yet if we’re really honest, the approach has mostly been reduced to “what product or service is the customer most likely to buy right now?”. It’s not a bad approach; the business needs to sell, and marketing needs to be relevant which it achieves by matching-up offering and audience as precisely as possible.
It is important, but it shouldn’t be the only strategy. In this transactional approach, there is limited opportunity to promote the brand itself, its values, what it stands for, its expertise and opinion. Ironically, that is often much more representative of the original reason why customers became customers.
Marketing needs to engage its audience with content that goes beyond the transactional, short-term objective – it needs to engage around values on an emotional level.
In a recent interview, Serena Williams (owner of the clothes line S by Serena and Serena Ventures) said in an interview that “interacting with customers is not always selling, sometimes it is just ‘How are you?’”. She could be pushing more bags and dresses, but the brand is about more – the brand is about the values that make her the amazing role model she is. Her stance on gender and racial equity is backed up by her grit, hard work and positivity. That’s what the audience is emotionally connected to.
Of course, Serena is both a brand and a celebrity; she’s not the average retailer and certainly not in the market of distress purchases. Yet a “traditional” fashion retailer like Patagonia achieves a similar connection with its customers. Visit its website and you’ll be reading about nature protection, second-hand gear, and recycling before you can get to anything that looks like a product page. Similarly, their purpose transpires in every marketing communication, and it is effective because their audience is committed to the same values.
Not all brands are blessed with the ability to communicate such a clear and overtly noble purpose, but including some authentic, value-focused content is not out of reach, and we think that it should be part of every CRM marketing plan. Indeed, we believe this will become ever more important as a means of achieving engagement and cut through the dense customer communications landscape.
Of course, devising this content and then delivering it within brands’ existing comms programmes are two different things. Planning-inc’s technical, planning and predictive analytics solutions offer opportunities to seamlessly integrate and balance ‘emotional’ content with traditional ‘transactional’ messaging. This can take the form of contextualised personalisation or predictive targeting, ensuring the messages most likely to drive engagement and long term business value are sent at the right time to the right customer.