OPINION: How customer-obsessed is your marketing strategy?

Back to news7th September 2021

By Trent Light, Business Strategy Director

Marketers are struggling to walk the talk on ‘customer obsession’. Best intentions are undermined by outdated media strategies and modelling. The problem is, despite sitting on tonnes of rich first party data, too many brands are actually audience-focused. There’s a big difference – and it determines which brands will succeed, and

Customer obsession became an industry buzzword back in 1999 when Steve Bezos first brought attention to the term in an interview with CNN. For those new to the party, customer obsession is a relentless focus on creating better customer experiences from the customer’s perspective.

If you needed any further proof than Amazon’s success to demonstrate the benefits of adopting a top-down business-wide commitment to your customer, a quick Google search will direct you to numerous reports and studies that support the undeniable link between superior customer experience, customer goodwill, trust, loyalty and most importantly, sales.

I constantly hear clients talk about adopting a customer-obsessed mindset, particularly around CX. But many struggle to translate talk into their mass marketing plans, given we’re all so obsessed with playing a volume game.

But there are some small, easy mindset shifts that help develop a more customer-obsessed approach to mass marketing.

Think customers, not audiences

Firstly, think customers, not audiences. Seems pretty obvious, but it’s surprising with all the riches of first-party data that brands have available that many advertisers still outsource their audience and media planning to tools that group customers into large, homogenous groups bound by similar characteristics and which assume everyone thinks, feels, and buys the same.

Thinking about actual customers rather than audiences allows you to identify more relevant segments within your audience that help optimise your strategy accordingly. It also helps shift your thinking to develop a more human-centric approach to planning that focuses on meaningful brand interactions and conversations with customers while providing solutions to their needs at each step of the consumer journey.

At Ryvalmedia, we use several tools that allow brands to map data-led consumer journeys across multiple categories and have the capacity to integrate first-party data. We overlay this data to determine and inform what customers need at each stage of the path to purchase, so brands are constantly adding value along the consumer journey.

**Think insights, not data **

When you start to think about specific customers rather than large audiences, it opens more possibilities for your first-party data to identify deeper behavioural insights. We can begin to look deeper and answer why specific channels can drive higher sales? Why do certain times of the day, week, or year deliver better results? What is the brand solution within that channel and in the context of your customer’s life?

Most existing media mix models ignore contextual and cultural influence on purchase decisions, assuming that consumer demand is purely stimulated through advertising and all sales are directly attributed to media. However, a marketer’s ability to fuse their customer data with social discussion, onsite search data, contextual environments, and search engine trends to get a more holistic view of the solution your product can provide in the customer’s moment of need is invaluable.

We only need to look at 2020 for dozens of examples of cultural moments driving sales and wondering how we could have got in front of them. If only you’d had an advertisement in market and stock available for breadmakers when every bored Melbournian in lockdown suddenly had to start baking sourdough and sharing the results with their friends.

**Look for trends, but don’t ignore anomalies **

I am not diminishing the value of trends. However, trends, by definition, already exist. The aim of a customer-obsessed business should be to resolve your customer’s problem before they even know that it exists. Therefore, it’s worth spending some time looking at what the anomalies can tell us.

Anomalies are often dismissed as glitches in the system or rejected because they don’t appear to last long enough to build a long-term consumer insight around. However, anomalies can often result from an event, a cultural moment, or an emerging need that may be happening outside of your purview but shouldn’t be ignored.

I’ll use a recent client example where we observed an unexplained spike in website traffic and ticket sales for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Using our partner Foxcatcher’s Worldview platform, we looked at what was happening at a macro cultural level and found that it was lead actress Emma Watson’s birthday on that particular day, which had resulted in a sharp spike in social discussion around the movie series. Worldview allowed us to identify the root cause of the increased interest in Harry Potter more broadly and increase our spend in real-time to further drive ticket sales for the musical while interest and sentiment were at their peak. More importantly, it helps us plan future activity and content around these moments.

**Think solutions, not products **

So, if it’s hard to identify the problem before our customers know they exist, how do we present our product as the solution they need? Not everyone has the time to send emails to 1,000 customers like Steve Bezos to find out what keeps them up at night. Micro-moments present themselves every day socially, on discussion boards, what we’re searching for, and through the media. There is, however, an opportunity to identify emerging needs or problems facing consumers through real-time insight into broader contextual and cultural moments as they are happening.

Capturing the sentiment of your customer, whether good or bad, and identifying how your product can add value or solve a problem is key to ensuring you’re always presenting the right message at the right moment.

The natural shift in thinking for a customer-obsessed business is to see sales or market share as a natural by-product of making your customer’s life better. Again, this seems obvious, and many would argue they already think like this. However, ask yourself how often your marketing objectives are focused on enriching your customer’s life rather than simply driving sales or increasing market share?

**Think brand interactions, not just brand exposures **

Ever asked a work colleague for some advice on something, and they try to sell you a Thermomix before answering? Have you ever walked into your accountant for some financial advice and get blocked at the entrance by someone from the local bank trying to sell you a credit card? Probably not. And nor would you like to. The same applies when your 30-second non-skippable ad sits in front of a short video your customer just clicked on for some light entertainment. If you’re a brand that prides itself on knowing your customer has more important things to do, how does it reflect on your brand when you demonstrate the opposite in your media?

Exposure and disruptive experiences may get your brand noticed, but often for the wrong reasons. Most consumers acknowledge that a level of advertising is the trade-off for the free availability of content. However, you’re stretching the relationship if you’re impacting the experience they went there for in the first place. Very few brands pride themselves on delivering a disruptive customer experience; make sure your media placements don’t either.

**Think Ryval, not our rivals **

While adopting a customer-obsessed mindset to your media planning isn’t new to all brands, a defined process, or an exact science. It is, however, a concept that creates subtle shifts in thinking to help create more meaningful brand experiences, at scale, for your customers. It’s a way of thinking we have adopted at Ryvalmedia that influences every decision we make with and for our clients. We see a future where the insight generated from marketing and CX is integrated back into the business at an intrinsic level to help inform product strategy, commercial targets, and the overall growth of brands.

which will fail.