Since the primary purpose of digital marketing is to attract and retain new customers, it would make sense to take a customer-centric approach. Unfortunately, many businesses tend to get it backward. Instead of focusing on their customers and what they want, they promote content and see what sticks.
As a result, many brands need help finding their audience because they’re putting too much time and effort into marketing campaigns that don’t work.
Thankfully, you don’t have to wonder what works anymore. With the help of digital marketing guru Brian Solis, let’s break down five ways to create a customer-based marketing strategy that delivers the results you want.
Focus on Strategy, Not Tools
Because technology is advancing rapidly, there’s almost an arms race for companies to come up with the Next Big Thing. While AI is making huge waves, tons of marketing tools and programs are available for brands of all sizes.
That said, there’s a tendency for companies to engage in SNOW (Shiny New Object, Want) tactics. This means that many brands will adopt a new tool instead of building a strategy first and then try to reverse engineer their next campaign.
According to Solis, “not enough people are talking about the real human application of any of this stuff.” He posits that more marketers must focus on the why, not the how.
This means developing a campaign and sales funnel on paper first, then seeing which tools can help achieve those goals. Identifying pain points and determining the right software to solve those problems is also crucial.
For example, one challenge is coming up with new ideas. You can find a marketing tool that helps with creativity based on customer trends and data. This way, you know your content will be relevant and appealing to your audience.
Establish #WDYSF (What Do You Stand For)
Consumers are savvier than ever and are far more willing to research a company well before interacting with a sales rep or marketing campaign. This savviness means that brands can no longer focus on products and services. Instead, they must dig deeper to showcase their “why” (notice a theme?).
The why can have multiple meanings. Why should customers pay attention to your business? Why should they buy from you when many competitors are out there? Why are your products or services better than anyone else’s? Also, why are you in this business, and why do you want to succeed?
If the answer to the last question is “to make money,” you will struggle to connect with your audience. Instead, you must find meaning in your work and tap into that passion and motivation. As Solis explains, he uses the hashtag #WDYSF, aka What Do You Stand For? Only when a company can answer that question briefly there’s no point in investing in a flashy new ad campaign.
Overall, the objective is to illustrate what you stand for in everything you do. Each social media post, content piece, and landing page should display at least some of that answer. Do you stand for sustainability? Do you stand for equitable outcomes for your customers? Do you stand for high-quality products that will stand the test of time?
According to Solis, there’s a tangible benefit to answering WDYSF. Once you align yourself with that purpose, marketing becomes almost secondary. As he puts it, “The advice I have is to stop acting like marketers, if you have to market that means that there is something wrong.”
Your brand should sell itself, and the marketing only gives your audience the details they need to buy your products or services.
Embrace “The Embrace”
Another problem many brands encounter is the desire to “go viral.” While this tactic can be beneficial from a marketing perspective, it’s almost impossible to know what will go viral and what won’t. However, any content designed to enter the mainstream is doomed to fail. All too often, the most viral ads and videos are those that no one would have seen coming. The internet is a fickle place, and it’s virtually uncontrollable.
So, the next best thing is to capitalize on current viral trends. Brands will hop on the hype train and deliver content that taps into whatever is trending, but that’s part of the problem. People enjoy viral content because it’s enjoyable, not because they want to buy something.
Instead, according to Solis, brands should focus on creating and promoting meaningful content to their audience. Yes, getting a lot of clicks and views is great, but only some translate to actual sales. In most cases, it’s better to have 1,000 views and 100 sales than 1,000,000 views and 10 sales.
As with everything else, there has to be a meaningful “why” behind each piece of content. Why should your audience pay attention or care? Why is this content valuable to them? Also, what are they going to do with this content? Many brands create posts to keep their momentum going, but if the quality of each piece gets worse over time, customers will stop paying attention.
So, what is “the Embrace,” then? According to Solis, it’s when brands embrace their customers and offer something more than just a viral piece of content. Ideally, both sides (the brand and the customer) should embrace each other, resulting in a long-lasting relationship that benefits everyone involved.
Overall, the best marketing campaign focuses on quality rather than quantity. While other brands follow trends, it’s much better to generate high-value content that will remain valuable now and into the future.
Observe and Know Your Audience
For many companies, there’s a vast difference between what they say they stand for and what their customers believe they stand for. This disconnect can turn many customers off, leading them away from the brand and to a competitor. So, one of the best marketing strategies is determining how big a gap is and figuring out how to close it.
But how does a company go about doing that? Well, it involves paying attention to your ideal customer’s habits online. You can also focus on specific mentions of your brand to see what people say about the company, both positively and negatively. That can serve as a foundation to tell you where you are and how far you must go to achieve your objective.
One substantial way to help bridge this gap is to invest in audience research. The more you know about how your customers discovered your brand and what inspired them to buy something, the easier it is to find more of them. Mapping the customer journey can lead to valuable results that generate more sales and strengthen your bottom line.
All too often, businesses will start by creating an ideal customer avatar and trying to sell to that imaginary person. However, these companies discover that who they’re trying to market to and who is actually buying is much different than what they expected. One way to avoid this disconnect is to “observe” your customers. Pay attention to their actions on and off your site, and try to put yourself in their shoes. According to Solis, “You learn all of the things that you need to do just from observing.“
So, instead of making assumptions, let the data tell the story and guide your next marketing campaign. Best of all, AI programs can now provide these insights, making it easier and more accessible for companies of all sizes.
Question the Status Quo
Regarding digital marketing, there are “rules” about what to do and what to avoid. For example, search engine optimization is “good,” while keyword stuffing is “bad.” However, many rules are not based on customer behaviors or needs. Instead, they’re based on algorithms and expert advice from digital marketers.
One thing that Solis stresses is to branch out and discover what works best for your brand. The marketing landscape is changing constantly, and what worked several years ago may be worthless today.
He says that for modern marketers to make an impact, they should see themselves as “digital anthropologists.” Instead of following established rules and norms, it’s better to look at human behavior and understand why customers do what they do. For example, why did that person buy that product, and did the product deliver what they expected? If not, how could it be improved in the future?
Humans are complex beings, and marketers and brands must understand that. Each group acts as a monolith so that no one marketing tactic will work 100 percent of the time. Brands must learn to adapt and connect with their audience, even if that audience changes regularly.
While that may seem challenging at first, it should be empowering. What it means is that your brand can navigate its path and follow its own rules. There’s no reason to do what other people do; you can start creating meaningful campaigns from scratch. The process may be trickier, but the results can be far better than expected.
In the end, taking a customer-centric approach is the best way to find success. Once you can tap into your audience and their complexities, you can connect with them far better than any other brand.