Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. If you’d like to see more about its complete history, then I highly recommend this Hubspot infographic.

With the advent of digital marketing in the early 80’s, many companies began to take a serious look at their marketing. They realised that their primarily outbound strategy had to change. Consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated consumers with spammy emails, pop-up ads and subtle cookies for following their every move online.

Consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated consumers with spammy emails, pop-up ads and subtle cookies for following their every move online.

Brand Building

Many large consumer goods (CPG) companies such as P&G and Nestle changed the name of their Marketing departments to Brand Builders, in the hope of adapting to this new world. But they failed miserably because they continued to run their marketing in the same old way. With few exceptions, it’s still all about them and their brands and not much about their consumer.

Luckily some other CPG companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to consumer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the consumer at the heart of their business. Consumer centricity is not a destination because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long.

Consumers understand marketing

I think we have taught our consumers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They know that companies have marketing plans which often include regular promotions, so they wait for the next price-off.

They realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume might be different, but there are strong similarities in their performance.

Our consumers recognise that in today’s world, they have increased choices. But products and services they are offered have also become more and more similar. Their formats, colours or perfumes may be different, but there are strong similarities in the way they perform.

That’s why our consumers often have a portfolio of brands from which they choose in many categories. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand than they used to be.

We have taught our consumers to expect constant innovation from us. They quickly adapt to the once novel idea we present to them and are soon off searching for the next big thing.

According to Accenture’s “Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago.

Catalina, a leading digital and consumer loyalty firm, showed in their 2015 study that 90% of the leading household goods brands in the US are losing market share!

It’s Not Bad News For All Brands

Some brands are keeping their customers loyal, but loyalty has gone from mere repeat purchases to the search for a more emotional than functional benefit. At least this is what the Facebook IQ study concluded at the end of last year.

And this is where the need for a customer first strategy comes in.

Customer First

In response to these ever more savvy consumers, marketing has to change. It requires a more important emotional element to be brought to brands than in the past so that we can connect with our customers at a deeper level.

In the 2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, they claimed that marketers need to acquire some new talents.

Marketing skills

The most sought-after skills are analytical thinking and customer centricity.

Marketing is now as much an art as it is a science. We need to take full advantage of the enormous availability of information about our consumers. We can no longer rely on our creativity alone to attract new buyers.

How to Know if you’re Customer Centric

Companies which place the consumer at the heart of their business are easy to recognise.

  • Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and games.
  • Their contact pages provide all possible forms of communication to help the customer reach out to them.
  • Their advertising is consumer centric and resonates emotionally, with the consumer and not the brand as the hero.
  • They involve their consumers in many aspects of their business (see “The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation” for more on this topic).

If you’re not sure how good your own customer centricity is, just take a look at your website and view it from your customer’s perspective.

First Steps to Move Beyond Brand Building

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are a few of the essential first steps that you need to urgently make, to adopt a more modern aFirst steps to customer centricitypproach:

  1. Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.
  2. Whenever a decision is taken, ask “What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?” This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the consumer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.
  3. Review the language of your website. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do. While you’re online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.
  4. Take a look at your target consumer description or persona. When was it last updated?
  5. Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.
  6. Spend time with your front-line staff and consumers. Make use of call centres, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know.
  7. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with the whole company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2.

These are your starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to a more customer centric approach. If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a new-age marketing approach, you can donwload a free sample of my book “Winning Customer Centricity” on the . The fun drawings in this post come from the book!

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