The days are long past when marketers could employ a scattershot, one-size-fits-all approach, because not only have consumer groups become more bifurcated, they have also become more demanding.
And it's no wonder - with so many choices, consumers can pick and choose who they do business with. As such, companies that maintain an impersonal marketing strategy are going to lose.
Because the trend is now shifting to a personal approach that makes consumers feel as if companies care about their specific wants and needs. This is known as human-centric marketing, and it can benefit businesses in three major ways...
1. It Identifies New Areas For Growth
In order to implement a human-centric approach to your marketing, you need to delve into the psyche of your customers and clients. This is the only way you can accurately identify what their needs are, how they perceive whether you're meeting or not meeting them, and what they would like you to do better to service those elements.
Done right, this can be a gold mine of insights that you can then use to identify areas to focus and develop your products and services.
For example, Mike Diamond Services, a plumbing company based in California, recognized through market research that customers didn't like the fact that most plumbers were dirty and didn't smell good when they arrived at a home or business for an appointment.
So what did Mike Diamond do?
He recognized that his plumbers were not as clean and nice-smelling as he wanted, so he used that customer feedback and transformed his company by becoming the "Smell Good Plumber."
His guarantee was that all his plumbers would arrive at an appointment smelling like a million bucks and wearing clean, crisp uniforms.
In fact, Mike Diamond went a step further and implemented a three-point "Smell Good Plumber Promise" that includes:
- Clean uniforms
- Sanitary gloves
- Red carpet treatment - plumbers wear protective shoe coverings
Mike Diamond is one of the biggest and most successful plumbers in Southern California, and its distinguishing feature came about because the company's owner listened to customers, realized he had an opportunity for growth by incorporating their desire for nice-smelling plumbers, and implemented a strategy that worked.
A customer-centric marketing approach gives you the opportunity to fulfill a consumer need with new products and new services that are likely to work - because they're generated by something your consumer group wants.
2. It Boosts Customer/Client Satisfaction
There's no way to develop an effective human-focused marketing plan without soliciting information from your existing consumer group.
But here's the great thing about those surveys and questionnaires - if you present them the right way, you can also make your customers feel wanted.
Because they'll feel as if you're validating their cares and concerns, and that makes them feel wanted and valued.
And guess what?
Customers who feel valued and wanted are customers who continue to buy your products and services, and refer consumers in the same demographic to your business.
Customers are always going to buy products and services that are specifically designed to satisfy their needs, and they're going to love doing it, because you've made the customer experience feel personal, intimate and important.
Take a look at this survey which was conducted by Walker, a customer-focused business consultancy group:
You can't build your business solely on offering the best products and services.
Yes, that's important, but it's not as vital to your company's success as understanding that the people who buy your products and services are key to everything.
If you make them feel a greater sense of connection to your company by soliciting their opinion, implementing their ideas and creating new products and services that fulfill their requests, you're going to be ahead of where the buyer's market is headed.
3. It Elevates Your Brand
Branding has become such a big buzzword in marketing circles because it's a key element in how your company distinguishes itself from the competition.
But what some company owners forget is that branding isn't just about how you want to define your company to the outside world - it's about how your targeted consumers perceive your company's products, services and ethos.
So what does that mean in relation to a customer-centric marketing approach?
It means that if you focus on the customer experience, at every level of the buying process, you can elevate your branding, because positive customer perception will increase exponentially.
What do companies such as Zappos, Google, Apple, Amazon and Costco all have in common?
They all consistently rank high in customer satisfaction surveys, and have become trusted brands because they do everything in their power to service customers - even if it means losing money on a transaction.
These companies focus almost entirely on delivering an experience that makes every customer feel valued and understood.
As an example - Apple's in-store Genius Bar wasn't just a random invention, it was implemented to further enhance the experience of customers who entered an Apple Store.
The design of the Genius Bar isn't an accident, either. It's intended to make you feel as if you're pulling up a chair at your favorite local bar, where everybody knows your name, to quote a famous TV comedy.
And Genius Bar employees treat you like a friend who has the most wonderful questions about the company's products and services - in fact, all of the employees you see at an Apple Store seem like they stepped out of some alternate universe where cool and hip is the norm.
But the key?
They don't make you feel like an idiot for asking the most basic questions, because they love what they do, and they make you feel like a superstar when they explain something to you.
You love going to Apple, you love their products and you feel like a hero for belonging to the Apple universe.
How You Can Implement Human-Centric Marketing
So now that you've seen how this type of marketing offers opportunities for growth, how exactly do you implement your own version?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Behavioral Research Studies - Find out the buying habits of your consumer group through comprehensive behavioral studies that also employ a psychological approach to why consumers choose one product over another
- Empower Your Employees - One of the ways that Zappos became such a successful company is that CEO Tony Hsieh realized that customers wanted to buy from a company that was immediately responsive to their needs. So he empowered every customer service representative to give discounts, freebies and instant refunds - and he also gave them the authority to ship exchanges even before a customer had sent back returned merchandise. In doing so, Hsieh made Zappos the darling of the customer-service sector and a huge player in the shoe market, so much so that Amazon bought Zappos in 2009 for a cool $1.2 billion.
- Put a Premium On Customer Feedback - Frequently solicit customer opinions on your products and services. Follow up on sales and ask what upgrades customers would like to see. Make customers feel valued after the sale, and they'll come back for more.
Human-centric marketing is here to stay, and if you don't find ways to make your customers feel special and validated, you'll lose them to a company that does.
Multiple studies have shown that customer experience is going to be the biggest determinant of the success or failure of a business, whether that business is a major brand or a small company.
Focus on your customers. Find out what they like, dislike, crave and most importantly, what they aren't getting from your company.
And then fulfill those wants and needs, and build new products and services that fill an untapped niche, and you'll be that much closer to long-term success.
Main image used under Creative Commons