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The New Customer Service Trend that’s Shaking Up the Marketing Industry (In a Good Way!)

When it comes to customer service trends, most marketers and customer support teams groan and shake their head. Here’s another glimpse into supposedly “what customers want” that’s supposed to make them beat a path to our doors.

Except it rarely works out that way – and customer service suffers as a result of it.

But now, a new trend is catching on that could change all of that. And calling it a trend is really doing a disservice to the notion at all. What it should be called is “the way service should always have been done”.

It’s called customer-first marketing – and it’s changing everything you think you know about how your prospects think, act and react. Let’s take a closer look:

What is Customer-First Marketing?

First, let me ask you a question – as a marketer, how would you describe customer-first marketing if you weren’t sure what it was?

Many will say, “well, we need to build a marketing and sales strategy around convincing users to try our product or service and become customers. Once they’re in the funnel, we advertise to them based on where they are in the buying stage and hope to grow repeat business.”

This is a solid marketing strategy, but it’s not customer-first marketing. When you start with “We need to build…” you’re already discounting the customer and their needs. If anything, they’re more of an after-thought – a mindless object that only comes into play once the funnels are built and the strategies executed.

Let’s take a look at another example. Let’s say a client wants to meet with you to explore your solution further. Your sales people march in like an army under strict orders and pressures to sell. After all, they’ve got quotas to meet!

Customer-first marketing turns both of these examples on their heads. It involves a lot of discussion and back-and-forth with the customer to discover a solution that truly works for both parties. It’s a method where sales are the secondary focus.

Now, don’t panic.

Because although you’re conducting a lot of research and having a lot of discussion and making a lot of choices and getting feedback, all of this may seem like a huge lead weight on the actual marketing process, but in fact with customer-first marketing, it’s the most crucial piece.

What is the Difference Between Customer-Centric Marketing and Customer-First Marketing?

Now, you may hear the phrase “customer-first marketing” and think it’s just another spin on the often-cited “customer-centric marketing” strategy. But here is the main difference:

Customer-centric marketing aims strategies AT the customer. You are looking at the customer as an end-goal. Customer-first marketing revolves AROUND the customer. You are making them an integral part of your marketing, research and development.

In December of 2016, MarketingSherpa released a comprehensive study detailing what measures contributed the most to customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is one of the highest notches to strive for on the customer-first marketing barometer, and these insights demonstrate a very revealing path toward the end goal.

The Big Question: What Do Satisfied Customers Feel versus Unsatisfied Customers?

customerfirst1

According to the study, over half of satisfied customers reported having a “good experience” with the company. But what constitutes a good experience? Namely, it makes the customer feel like they are important to, and have a relationship with the company. Perhaps most insightful was answer number 9 on the list: “It puts my needs above their own business goals”.

Contrast that with the number one reason for unsatisfied customers (with over a third of the responses) and you get “The company does not put my needs and wants above their own business goals.”

If you want to see just how vital this idea is to separating the satisfied from the unsatisfied customers, take a closer look at this question:

customerfirst2

But simply putting one’s customers ahead of one’s business goals does much more than let businesses give themselves a pat on the back. When customers are genuinely satisfied and feel like their needs are being met, they’ll not only continue to purchase from the company, but also highly recommend it to others, as noted in the chart below:

customerfirst3

Making the Shift to Customer-First

So if you get to enjoy all of these benefits when putting a customer-first plan into action, why aren’t more companies doing it? According to Jamie Beckland, VP of Product and Marketing at Janrain, the answer is simple:

“So if it’s generally agreed upon that customer-first marketing is essential to survival, let alone growth, why do companies struggle with it so much? Marketing benchmarks are difficult for many executives to reset. It’s difficult to justify not sending fewer, more targeted emails, and risk programs not delivering against quarterly targets. Unfortunately, the long-term damage caused by this approach is likely to outweigh any short-term gains. Once you forgo tailoring an experience to the customer, you can expect them to cut off communication, or worse, take their money somewhere else.”

So what are some things you can do to help promote more customer-first moments, to gradually but solidly show progress in moving to this new kind of thinking? Here are a few ideas:

Walk Them Through the Process

There’s nothing quite so overwhelming as signing up for a new product or service, only to have a handful of emails (or one really long email) dumped in your lap on how to use it. Instead, take the time to walk them through the process. Offer a free getting started webinar, or let them schedule a date/time to learn the basics of how to use your product or service. Check in with them often to see how they’re progressing and what questions they may have.

Highlight Their Achievements

Have your customers done something awesome with your product or service? Why not work with them to share it with the world! Or simply highlight something about your customers – recognition makes everyone feel great about him or herself.

Some companies even go so far as to hand-write notes to their customers, thanking them for their feedback and providing them with a little something – a t-shirt, a gift card or some other token of appreciation that says “I value what you have to say – and here is something to thank you for taking the time to tell me about it.”

Be Proactive

Not just about support and resolving their issue, but about keeping them up-to-date with news, changes and other things they’d find relevant. Let them reach out to you through multiple, fully-staffed channels using whatever method is most convenient to them. Customer-first marketing involves a great deal of feedback and discussion. Take the time to get to know your customers and work with them, rather than giving them a number and a ticket and hoping for the best.

As you can see, when it comes to putting the customer first in your marketing, it’s surprisingly not that difficult. The hardest part will be to justify the returns in the long run. But not matter how you choose to do it, making the customer your priority, and living up to that statement in everything your company does, will pay off not just in terms of revenues, but happier employees, more loyal customers, and higher recommendations.

And that’s something every business can agree on!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

  1. I always believed that “customer-centric marketing” meant putting customers at the center of every action and always focusing on their needs. In fact, I wrote a book about it before this new term “customer-first marketing” became part of marketing jargon.

    Do we classify this as a new trend or is it more about semantics? I say the latter. :)

  2. Brooke Harper Mar 08, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Very well said, Sherice. Customers’ needs are fast changing, hence, companies have to continuously change in order to adapt to their customers’ needs. If not, they forgo them to their competitors.

    Your ideas are also steps in establishing customer’s loyalty. There is nothing more satisfying than putting a smile on your customers’ face. When you touch their hearts, you will not only create a loyal customers, but potential free advocates of your company too.

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