Gestalt: The importance of customer-centric marketing
by Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) Customer-centricity is a major departure from traditional marketing approaches led by product and brand, and adapting organisational structures to customer needs will clearly present challenges.
The solution for many has been to introduce customer-focused roles, and this has answered a definite need. However, the evolution to customer-centric marketing is structurally more complex than that. Many opt to split marketing into customer-centric and brand-centric segments, but this may slip back into inefficient silo thinking. In the end, the best thing may be to create a customer-marketing team that works across departments and is focused on business-strategic goals. Crucially, marketing must get behind this approach.
Restructuring for the future
In such a structure, it follows that the customer-marketing team members must have all-round, integrated marketing skills, and possess high business acumen. In addition, they must be well-versed in digital to enable a responsive, adaptive and collaborative organisation.
The customer-centric marketing organisation will not be structured along product, brand or customer lines, but the customer will be foremost in all its efforts. Instead, in true business fashion, restructuring must follow a value-chain approach, starting with planning, following up with proposition thinking, then execution, and finally, integrated performance measurement.
Sharing data-driven insights can help everyone involved understand customer segments and targeting.
In addition to restructuring, brands must communicate their customer focus to customers, and this needs to permeate through to their very core.
The person or team driving customer centricity is not ‘in charge of’ the customer, neither do they own the customer nor have sole responsibility or sight of the customer.
Organisations can still revolve around brand or product, but a customer-centric streak must run through them like a golden thread. Think about your product/your brand/your entire business through the lens of the customer. Gain an outside-in perspective.
And do so by talking to customers, all the time. Connect with them at every touch point.
Knowing your customer-centric purpose across all departments may fuel your success, aligning everyone in the organisation around what your brand stands for.
So, what is your customer-centric purpose? Knowing that comes from knowing your customers’ challenges and how you can solve them. This is how your customer programme can turn ‘pesky’ customer troubles into strategic focus areas, such as ensuring reliable service, customer support and engagement.
Understand new business models, emerging technologies and changing customer behaviour, and you can move with all of them to succeed.
Getting the basics right
It’s tempting to base your value on trying to be different. Instead, your customer worth will depend on doing the basics right:
- Have a purpose
- Understand what your customers want
- Know your customer programme
- Work to deliver it consistently, with teams that are on the same page
- Work collaboratively and share knowledge
A customer-first strategy is not about only about the customer. It’s about understanding how best to serve them while keeping your employees and shareholders happy and, in the end, that takes organisational and business acumen.
Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) is a designated chartered marketer, global marketing strategist, digital driver and a Women in Tech leader. She holds a BA degree in fine arts, a BA honours degree in brand marketing management, an MBA in business management and is completing her PhD in management sciences, focusing on the customer and business transformation. She is now director of customer first marketing at ORACLE UKI, responsible for driving customer success through customer advocacy, and building strategic partnerships focused on emerging technology and the changed customers’ buying behaviour. Leeya contributes the monthly column “Gestalt”, about putting customers first for sustainable business success, to MarkLives.
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