The Customer: The Foundation, Framework and Future of Marketing

Our reality is becoming revised at an accelerating rate. We are witnesses of a global transformation like never before. Technological forces are destroying long standing barriers, bringing truth to Thomas Friedman’s notion of Flat World 2.0. We have catapulted into the world of hyper-connectivity, where access to things beyond our wildest imaginations rest at our fingertips. Sustained attachment launches our minds into overdrive, depleting attention spans and creating the need for stand out innovations to capture our awareness.

Consumers have always played a fundamental role in marketing, but today they are clinching the lead and creating new obstacles for marketers to overcome. Today’s consumer is consistently inconsistent — they have been, and will always be, here, but their demands are evolving at lightning speed. It is crucial for marketers to keep them and their dynamic desires in the spotlight.

The foundation of marketing was established for the customer, the framework was structured to the specific needs and wants of the customer and the future of marketing lies with customer interests, preferences and their infatuation with experiences.

As we leap further into the future with every passing second, marketers are required to reposition themselves to stay in the game and ahead of the customer. We, as marketers, must be able to understand their high expectation and be willing to adapt to their changing demands. Customers expect companies to know what they want, before they even know what they want themselves.

Create

Consumers are inundated with information and data, and are becoming smarter buyers by the minute. With the introduction of new technologies and the gateway to infinite access being exposed, marketers have their work cut out for them. It is no longer about talking at customers, but rather about making customers talk. Instead of selling to customers, marketers now need to encourage consumers to become a part of their brand. To be a mastermind in the field, marketers must unveil pristine tactics aimed at their customers to differentiate themselves from competitors. They need to take risks and disrupt their market to gain customer attention.

As we continue to propel ourselves into the future, there will be more and more validity behind this. Marketers will need to break path dependency and start getting even more creative in order to captivate and retain our customers. We must continue to generate compelling content that consumers will want to read and know about. This content needs to be relevant. It needs to be thought provoking. Actionable content is even better. Content needs to communicate. We want the content we create to spread naturally. We should surprise people with our content, making them laugh, cry and connect emotionally.

Marketers have the power to change perspective through their brand messaging. With powerful ideas and bringing new concepts to the table, marketers can influence their customers into believing their brand is integral to their beliefs. This is smart marketing and as we venture further into the future, we are going to have to embrace the changes our customers are making and deliver them the messages they want to hear.

Consumers today have high expectations, and those expectations are only going to increase the more forward we go. Patience and tolerance are qualities of the past, and things are expected to happen immediately. This new, sophisticated digital world that we live in is extremely competitive and marketers must be aware that consumers have been empowered through technology, and thus, in order to launch a successful marketing campaign today, we have to be efficient, deliver on promises and create a brand that is highly relevant to the target market.

We have to be smart and savvy in two very important ways — analytical thinking and creative thinking. These two once vastly different qualities of thinking are not so different anymore and the future is only going to bridge the gap even faster. The better a marketer is at interpreting data and using the results to build a creative campaign with, the more successful that marketer is going to be. Marketers have the ability to leverage data to gain a deeper understanding of their customer to provide them with results they will act upon and to overcome business challenges at every step of the customer journey. We have placed high price tags on our time and marketers need to create new ways to break through all the noise and surpass competition.

With a wide array of capabilities such as marketing automation, content marketing, Google Adwords, and social feeds galore, marketers have the ability to increase their target efficiency. Through data driven resources like predictive analytics, we can market smarter than we have ever been able to. We really can know what prospective customers are going to want before they even do. We must use these to our advantage and become brilliantly creative to obtain the attention of distracted consumers.

Engage

The future is uncertain, but one thing marketers can be confident about is that we have entered the Age of the Consumer. Consumers now hold the majority control over markets. Sellers remain in control of the products and services they offer to consumers and marketers are in control of how their message is delivered to consumers, but the rest is in the hands of the customer. Customers have always controlled the buying decision, but now they are also in control of the information they choose to acknowledge from sellers and marketers. Information is easily attainable and the Internet alone offers it in bulk to consumers everywhere. There are no constraints on the information available to us today, and access is going to be a major factor in our future.

To ensure that customers are receiving what they need and want from sellers, marketers have to ask them questions. They need to listen to their answers and then figure out how to deliver solutions to the current problems they are trying to solve. Marketing is going to continue to be more dependent on the consumer. Constant research is necessary to keep up with consumer trends. Again, utilizing digitized resources are going to remain a smart tactic for marketers everywhere.

Personalization is essential. This is where that analytical marketing mind comes back into play. Companies can use data analysis and digital technology to their advantage by creating individualized messages for customers. Consumers want marketers to understand them because it makes their product and brand choices easier. Again, efficiency is in popular demand today and will continue to be so in the future. Personalizing messages also enhances their relevance to target consumers, another big aspect people are looking for. Consumers view more ads than they can count each day, and if it isn’t something they can identify with or relate to, they are going to move on to the next one.

Marketers have a wide array of instruments that we are able to implement into our marketing strategies, thanks again to technology and the rapid speed at which it is developing. For example, virtual reality is customizing the user experience and allowing for personalization in many different forms. Customers now have the ability to virtually “try on” clothing, eyewear, and accessories before purchasing. In addition, virtual reality can take customers to locations all over the world — altering the job of travel marketers. Providing customers with these new innovations in marketing campaigns is going to become increasingly more popular and competitive. Marketers need to familiarize with the new and upcoming technologies to gain a competitive advantage.

Customer engagement drives long-term success. When customers feel as though they are a part of a brand, companies are going to see sustaining positive results. Marketers must provide information that consumers can act on — whether it is subscribing to a service, purchasing a product or becoming an advocate of a brand. People are busy. People are connected. There is a lot going on in the lives of consumers both today and tomorrow. Slowing down is not on the horizon, either. Customers want, almost need, to be a part of something that simplifies their life — such as subscription based services like food delivery, access packages and items for their family members or pets. Amazon and companies like Dollar Shave Club and Bark Box have simplified the consumer experience by providing efficient accommodations delivered to customer’s doors.

Ongoing conversations between marketers and their customers are extremely important. Marketers have to utilize tools that are available to them, like predictive analytics, to know what their customers are after and be able to deliver it to them before they even expect it. With the fast-paced world we are entering, consumers do not have the time they once did to be dissatisfied or disappointed in products or services. Managing relationships with customers is part of this ongoing conversation. It begins in the very first stage of the customer journey — awareness. And, it doesn’t end at point of sale, rather it continues throughout the entire lifetime of the customer.

Customer relationship management is an integral part of marketing today and in the future. Consumers expect to be given an exceptional and personalized experience. Marketers are expected to understand their customer and we need to acknowledge the individual consumer’s attitudes, preferences and interests. We, as marketers, have a duty to engage customers at every stage of the customer journey and provide our customers with marketing strategies that fulfil their purposes, answer their questions and solve their problems.

Deliver an Experience

Consumers are fascinated with experiences. And, customers equate brands with experiences. People’s attention spans, mind-space and loyalty is more valuable and even vulnerable than ever before due to the technological shift we have seen. Therefore, it is crucial that marketers deliver an unprecedented and extraordinary experience ahead of time, every time.

Brands need to be memorable. People are inundated with thousands of brands every day. If a brand isn’t quickly remembered, it is even more quickly forgotten. The power of branding is huge now and will continue to rank high on consumer lists of requirements for advocacy. Customers need to understand their brand, be able to relate to it and want to be a part of it.

Marketers need to emphasize transparency to the brands they represent — no one wants to guess anymore. With global connectivity and the rise in technology we are continuing to see, consumers are gaining more access. Everything is being digitized. This adds elements of convenience, efficiency and availability. However, it raises the concern of privacy. Brands need to boost consumer confidence and offer them guarantees of their privacy. This includes emails being kept private, decreased odds of getting hacked and remaining transparent to their customers. To keep trust in a brand, consumers need to see what is going on behind the scenes within the companies they partake in. The more a customer trusts a brand, the bigger of an advocate they will be for that brand.

We need to make people remember our brands. Memorable brands will have an increased focus on loyalty and advocacy. This is established through brand relationships. So many consumers today purchase specific brands based on the way they make them feel and our job as marketers is to create an experience that our target customers can’t miss being a part of. Relationship marketing builds customer interaction with a brand and long-term engagement. When customers feel as though the brands they support understand them as individuals, they will have a stronger connection to the products and services that brand offers. Marketers can capitalize on this and retain customers through extended engagement and being able to deliver the right experiences to the right customers at the right time. Lifetime value of customers and cost of acquisition are going to be increasingly important to marketers as we determine our marketing strategies for every new campaign launched in the future. It would be an excellent idea to master these metrics sooner than later.

Even intangible resources are catching on to the importance on quality experiences. Google, for example, is continuously upgrading their search function. With each new algorithm established, it is more difficult for companies to be found on the search engine powerhouse if they are not delivering exceptional experiences to their customers.

What happens when a customer has a bad experience? Well, that might be one of our biggest fears as marketers. Consumers are very involved now and they will tell the world about their bad experience. Bad experiences are shared by customers and if we’re really unlucky, they will go viral. And, people have the tendency to believe negative feedback over positive feedback. It takes a lot of positive reinforcement to erase one negative comment from a prospective customer’s mind. Comments, product reviews and ratings are a natural thing for consumers to take part in today. The point: deliver exceptional experiences.

Word of mouth marketing plays into this same concept. We want our customers have such a great experience that they, as advocates, tell their family, friends and colleagues about their experience with a brand, product or service. A big amount of business comes from referrals and marketers need to keep this in mind when sending out their brand’s message. Building a favorable image and a reliable reputation will remain to be a fundamental aspect in good marketing as move further into the future.

The future is here and the future of marketing is in the hands of the customer. Sellers are no longer in majority control of markets, rather it is the consumers themselves. As marketers, we must take this and run with it. We need to be innovative. We need to be adaptive. We have to create, engage and deliver experiences that disrupt markets and make customers want to be a part of our brands.

Marketers must capitalize on this global connectivity we are seeing. As we tumble further into the future at gaining speeds, our attention needs to stay on the customers, who have little to no attention at all. We are being given the tools to combine creativity with analytics and this is a powerful combination when used correctly. We have to understand the customer and be with them through every step of the customer journey.

Kristen Willms

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