Being customer-centric as a company and in your Marketing is not optional. Forrester claims we’re in the age of the customer. Others, such as Bob Evans who was VP of Strategic Communications at SAP and the Chief Communications Officer at Oracle, say we’re in the throes of the engagement economy. Peter Drucker posited that “because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: Marketing and Innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business. The aim of Marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

It is Marketing’s job to have this deep understanding of the customer. Otherwise both Marketing and your organization have a higher risk of failing.

What It Means to Be Customer-Centric

Marketing ALWAYS needs to be customer-centric. It is not optional.

Marketing ALWAYS needs to be customer-centric. Dr. Peter Fader, author of Customer Centricity, defines customer-centric Marketing as looking at a customer’s lifetime value and focusing your marketing efforts on highest-value customer segments in order to drive profits. Clearly, customer-centric Marketing requires placing the customer at the center of your Marketing strategy in order to create and extract customer value. Only when Marketing is customer-centric can it serve as a value creator.

How to Employ Customer-Centric Marketing

Employing customer-centric Marketing entails offering your customers a consistently satisfying and relevant experience across all channels and touchpoints. This approach takes understanding of what a consistent experience is and what the relevant channels and touchpoints are. As marketers and members of the business community, at a minimum you must “know” these 6 customer attributes:

  1. The problem they are trying to solve and its magnitude
  2. Their process for identifying and selecting solutions to the problem
  3. The messages that resonate with them
  4. Touch points they find relevant
  5. Their perceptions of experience
  6. Which channels are critical to their process

Knowing these things takes more than intuition and experience. In today’s environment it takes data and understanding customer behavior. With good data and insights gained from this data you can begin to understand your customers’ buying journey.

Craft the Journey Map Around Customer Behavior

Too many marketers try to craft the journey map around how they sell. The key is to craft the journey around how the customer buys – which often isn’t a straight line. The more you can craft a customer journey around behavior the better you can use data and employ the scientific method.

Research by firms such as Forrester and Temkin found that customer journey mapping organizations better address opportunities to improve key business results such as product/service adoption and loyalty. For example, journey maps can help you uncover breaking points – those points where prospects or customers ride off into the sunset – in your existing processes, enabling you to prioritize process improvements.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of a customer journey map, start with the definition offered by Adam Richardson, author of Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems are its Greatest Advantage: “A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. He highlights that “the more touch points you have, the more complicated – but necessary – such a map becomes.”

A customer journey map illustrates the path your customer takes from THEIR perspective. Source: VisionEdge Marketing, Inc. ©2001

The purpose of any customer journey map is to illustrate the path your customer takes from THEIR perspective for whatever aspect of the process you need to map. The foundation of any journey map is capturing your customer’s steps and the touch points, such as analyst reports, peer reviews/testimonials, demonstrations, and product information, and channels, such as phone, in-person, online, etc., that they prefer in each part of the journey.

Perhaps you’ve already started a customer journey mapping initiative. If not and you’re ready to begin, collaboratively capturing what you believe is the journey a good starting point. Of course, you’ll want to incorporate actual customer research once you complete this step. Why? Because maps that skip the outside-in step run the risk of merely being a reflection of employee biases. Good maps leverage outside research to ensure validity.