Customer-centricity has become a topic of much debate in marketing in recent months, as brands continually strive to demonstrate that they’re putting the customer first. With the GDPR now looming on the horizon, ensuring the data that organisations use to target their consumers is legitimate and that their communications are truly in consumers’ best interests will become more important than ever.
Tighter laws around what constitutes consent. Easier opt-outs. Simplified processes for SARs (subject access requests) – so users can find out exactly what data a brand holds on them and why. They are all ways in which power is increasingly lying with the consumer. Should a customer wish to push back on use (or misuse) of their personal data, they will find it has never been easier. This means that, more than ever, relevance and personalisation in marketing practices are vital for brands to ensure consumers consistently feel the value exchange in brand communications.
However, with the wealth of data available to modern marketers and endless channels with which to reach consumers at the various points of the customer journey, the challenge often becomes ‘where do I start?’
Get your (data) house in order
Without a clean data source, relevance in marketing is impossible. If your database is outdated, spread across multiple systems, or just poorly kept, then it’s going to be next to impossible to ensure that you’re contacting the right person, at the right time, with the right message. So the first step towards customer-centricity should always be conducting an audit of your data landscape, to find out what you have and where.
You should then centralise these disparate records in one system, so all departments have access to all records and any changes need only be made to one set of records (rather than five or six).
Once done, it’s vital – especially as of May next year – that you know which pieces of data you not only have consent to hold, but also have a legitimate need to have.
Get consent. Then get it again
The next step once you have your centralised, updated and consensual database (the dream!) is to go back and check when each record last opted in to your communications, and how responsive they’ve been. Just because someone accidentally doesn’t unclick the double negative, self-ticking opt-in check box, it doesn’t mean they necessarily want to hear from you every week. And it certainly doesn’t constitute legitimate interest under the new legislation.
So the trick to becoming truly customer-centric is to check and recheck you have continued consent from your consumers (roughly every six months), partially to remain compliant under the new regulation, but also to help pre-empt any potential issues or crises. Opt-out spikes could be one of the biggest indications of reputational or communications issues – for those paying close enough attention.
Personalise your message
With your data in order and your consent in place, your organisation now has an interested, aware and engaged audience to communicate with. From here, one sure-fire way of undermining that effort is to start sending generic emails or irrelevant advertising which squanders the goodwill you’ve build up to get the opt-in in the first place.
Going through stages one and two will ensure your organisation has all the information it needs to create tailored and relevant communications, which offer customers a value exchange for the data they’ve parted with. Whether you are sending birthday messages, exclusive offers, or simply knowing when and where they like to have a cup of coffee – it’s the little things which can often make the biggest difference, so make sure you don’t forget them.
Hitting send is not the end
Just because you’ve got all this fantastic data in place and shared your highly targeted piece of marketing collateral (in whichever form this takes), don’t forget that hitting send is not the end. From Google Analytics to Facebook Insights and on-platform website analytics, the marketing world is becoming ever more packed with tools that can help monitor, analyse and react to changes in marketing activity in real time.
This level of optimisation will mean your campaigns can quickly react to trends online, change audience type based on engagement and reactions, and help ensure your budget is maximised to its full potential.
It’s easy to think of customer-centricity as just the latest fad of the marketing world. Yet the impact of a truly customer-centric marketing strategy can not only mean a stronger (and more profitable) relationship with your customers, but also maximised marketing spend, streamlined data and internal processes, as well as GDPR compliance.
So the question is not ‘should you have a customer-centric marketing strategy?’, but ‘why don’t you?’
Neth Williams, Marketing Manager at Occam DM Ltd (part of the St Ives Group)