Base Your Marketing Strategy On Customers, Not Products
Many years ago I developed a personal marketing philosophy that I believe forms the core principle of marketing ─ if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™
By focusing my thinking on what touches the customer, and how these impact and influence customers’ purchase decisions, I became highly adept at developing marketing and positioning strategies, first for my employers and then for my clients upon creating Howard Marketing Services in 1993.
Of course, everything your organization does touches your customers. This is why I advocate that long-term, sustainable success requires a customer-centric, marketing-led approach.
The key here is being customer focused, not just marketing led. Success will not automatically result from the traditional implementation of marketing techniques such as brand advertising, one-way communications with customers, lack of awareness of customer experiences, and reactive customer service strategies.
Rather, sustainable growth and success, as well as long-term customer loyalty, results from combining and modifying those traditional marketing approaches with TLC (think like customers), proactive customer engagements that lead to long-term customer satisfaction, two-way communications at all customer points of interaction, and a focus on understanding and learning from customer experiences with your products and services.
Prolonged success also results from adapting your current organizational processes and practices to better align yourself with the changing values of customers.
One of those changing customer values is choices and flexibility. Customers want both choices and flexibility, particularly when deciding what products and services will provide solutions to their needs, wants, and desires. Of course, when it comes to the actual purchase and use of a product or service, it is a bit different. As B. Joseph Pine points out in the book Mass Customization, “Customers don’t want choice. They just want exactly what they want.”
Only an organization that is fully focused on identifying the needs, wants, and desires of its customers will be able to provide exactly what they want. Then, if you give customers a little bit more than they expect, you are well on your way to developing long-term customer loyalty. As Susan Lyne, CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia said, “If people get what they expect from a brand ─ and more ─ they’re going to stick with it.”
Product Marketing. Brand Managers. Product Managers. Organization structures based on product lines or product groups. This is where the traditional focus of marketing has been, and unfortunately still remains ─ on products.
But, as I have often stated: “A product is or a service is just your point of entry. A loyal customer is the true goal.”
Having loyal customers should be the goal of every organization. The purpose of business, as the legendary Peter Drucker wrote, is “to create a customer.” In my view, the ultimate role of marketing is to create and keep good customers, to the benefit of customers, the organization, and other stakeholders.
Business is not just about sales, contracts, cash flow, internal rates of return, ROI, and profitability. Even Henry Ford recognized this when he said, “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.”
Using traditional marketing techniques, being “customer oriented” has meant operating in order to meet the needs of the typical customer, or the average customer. Businesses today cannot afford to focus on the average customer. Your future growth, and future profitability, comes from satisfying the needs of your most valuable customers.
To treat your most valuable customers as your most valued customers requires that they be treated as individuals ─ with individual needs, wants, desires, likes, and dislikes.
To treat valuable customers as individuals requires the understanding that anything that touches these customers is a marketing concern. It also means understanding that everything you do as an organization ─ and sometimes the things that you do not do ─ touches your customers.
The bottom line is simply this: if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue™.
This simple phrase births an entire marketing philosophy that you can use to develop sustainable growth and a loyal customer base for your own products and services.
It means doing things ─ particularly “marketing” ─ differently than you are doing them today. It means putting the needs of your customers first, before those of the organization. It means inculcating the skills of thinking from the customer’s perspective throughout the organization. And it means delivering your brand through customer experiences rather than paid advertising.
It will feel different, doing all these things, of that I can assure you. But I can also assure you so too will be the results.
KEY POINT: if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™
TAKING ACTION: what is the main focus of your internal meetings? Products or customers? Sales results or customer needs? How can you spend more time discussing customers and their needs and less time discussing other matters?
How do you reward those in the organization that exhibit high levels of customer intensity? How do you publicize their efforts internally? What can be done to improve these areas and turn your customer-focused folks into internal heroes?
What is your marketing strategy based on ─ products or customers? Are your marketing plans based on product groupings and goals or customers and customer segments? Now is the time to change from product-driven strategies to customer-driven ones.
This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.