Consumer-First Marketing: How to Turn Consumer Entitlement into Opportunity

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Today, more than ever, marketers are faced with a paradox: consumers want hyper-tailored content but also don’t want to share the very information that allows digital marketers to deliver that personalization.

Thirty-three percent of respondents to a recent 7,000-person consumer study indicate that they expect brands to anticipate needs before they arise. Seventy-four percent expect companies to treat them as individuals, not as a member of a segment (like “millennials” or “suburban mothers”). However, 75% are also concerned with a brand’s ability to track their behavior. Short of becoming soothsayers, what this ultimately means for marketers is customer experience and content relevance supersede almost every other part of marketing.

Consumer-first not just consumer-centric

Consumer-first marketing inverts the traditional marketing approach of putting product promotion first and places the emphasis on meeting a customer’s need or solving her problem. For a car company, this could be as simple as not sending postcards about a new model to a customer who just bought a car three months ago. Or having a brand stop sending emails about an upcoming sale when a customer is waiting on an exchange for the damaged boots she received.

Putting consumers first is key to delivering outstanding customer experiences – which today means a new breed of hyper-personalization that puts the customers’ past buying behavior, current situation and preferences at the heart of every interaction, and basing that insight on engagement data. Being customer-centric is no longer enough; companies need to embrace a consumer-first approach and make an effort to increase their customer intimacy. 

Solve not sell

Marketing has long been seen as a means to deliver a product or service to satisfy a customer need. Today’s entitled consumers expect more from brands. Our research show that 70% of consumers agree it’s important that brands understand a consumer’s individual situation (e.g. marital status, age, location, etc.) when they market to them and not just use every communication as a means to make a sale.

For marketers, this finding means providing that extra value. Go the extra mile. Use past customer behavior to inform communications and solve issues. For example, if you’re an airline, use the customer’s data to determine past travel behavior and be specific about recommendations. Share details about a favorite destination – whether it’s a new restaurant or an exciting event coming up in that city. If you’re a retailer with a customer that just returned a defective purse, share tips on caring for leather goods. It’s not always about the sale today, but rather solving customers’ issues now to create a long-term return.   

Hyper-personalize

Consumer-first marketers are not only aware of interactions with their consumers, they are also attuned to what’s happening in the world. For example, they know that an unusually cold winter may be coming. They know that a certain baseball team is close to winning the World Series, and that a specific group of their customer base has bought that team’s gear in the past. Combining these data feeds with information gleaned from a customer’s activities is crucial to personalizing day-to-day communications. Perhaps it’s time to promote that cashmere sweater or a new jersey. Sixty-five percent of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications with them. And with the cost of acquiring new customers being so much more expensive than retaining them, hyper-personalization is crucial.

Be human. Have empathy.

The growth of social media has only amplified the consumer’s voice. A small, one-time misstep 15 years ago could easily snowball into a full-on crisis today if one social media “influencer” gets wind of a snafu and decides to Tweet to their millions of followers. We’ve seen this time and time again with the likes of United Airlines, Uber, and Facebook. These situations vary, but the commonality among all was the lack of compassion or seeming delay in accountability; these are things that can taint a brand overnight. For marketers, the lesson here is simply doing the right thing and taking responsibility for your actions. Inform customers – and quickly – and show remorse if you experienced a data breach. Be proactive about taking extra security measures and follow through on those promises. Transparency goes a long way — explain why you are asking for certain information and tell them how it will make their interaction with your brand better. Walk in your customers’ shoes: as a consumer, do you want to receive communications every day from a brand that you haven’t interacted with in months? Likely not.

Technology allows us to be more effective and efficient, but keeping that human touch in everything we do can preserve and strengthen relationships – ultimately making us better marketers.

About Nick Worth

Nick Worth is Chief Marketing Officer at B2C marketing automation company Selligent Marketing Cloud. He often writes about the evolution and future of marketing, addressing a broad range of topics relating to consumer behavior, technology evolution and opportunities for marketers to engage with their audiences more effectively. He is co-author of the book “Marketing to the Entitled Consumer: How to Turn Unreasonable Expectations into Lasting Relationships,” available October 30, 2018.

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