Many may find this title, Social Media Forces Customer-Centric Marketing, somewhat puzzling. To understand what is meant, we should look at a few definitions.
Social Media Are
Here are a few definitions:
- The term Social Media refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue.
- A Dictionary Definition of Social Media – forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)
- Social media has clearly set a higher standard in people sharing and discovering each other. Think of it as a cross between sociology and technology, transforming one way broadcasting into comprehensive two way communication. It’s personal. It’s human.
In summary, social media provide a venue for one-to-one dialogue between persons.
Social Media Are Not
Social Media is a bit of a misnomer since it does not fit the traditional definition of media. It could encourage marketers to regard these as additional channels of communication with customers and prospects. In other words, new tools that parallel the existing media such as newspapers, TV and print magazines.
There is partial truth in that but the arrival of social media signals a much more profound change. This notion has major implications for the way companies do business.
What is Marketing
In times past, the word marketing was synonymous with mass marketing. It was concerned with beaming out messages about products and services by whatever means would get brand awareness among potential customers. Some of the more powerful channels were expensive, such as TV or luxury magazines, but they were cost-effective in getting the message across.
Rarely was this permission marketing where the target prospect could refuse to hear the message. It was one-way communication. The hope was that once the seed had been planted in this way, prospects would wish to sample the product and then buy on a repeat basis.
The Internet is a massive change agent
The big factor which changed all this is the Internet and the relatively modest costs for users to have access. It is still possible to beam out messages but they must be welcome and convincing. However this overlooks one aspect of the Internet which is that it can support two-way communication. People do not wish to be talked at but may be willing to enter into a dialogue with a company.
This dialogue is now made much easier by the entry of social media. The most popular of these is Facebook and Twitter has a sizable following too. The new one on the scene is Google Plus which seems to be growing rapidly.
Inbound marketing, a name dreamed up by Hubspot, focuses on earning, not buying, a person’s attention, which is done through social media and engaging content, such as blogs, podcasts and white papers. This content is interesting, informative and adds value, creating a positive connection in the eyes of the consumer, thus making her more likely to engage your brand and buy the product.
It is interesting how this is expressed. There does not seem any attempt to establish a two-way dialogue. Rather the aim is to create content which is so appealing that customers will wish to see it and accept its message.
Social media at its best provides a stage on which genuine person-to-person communication can take lace. Inbound Marketing seems to work on this same stage merely with the intent of getting attention.
What is missing in this explanation is the realisation that consumers now feel more empowered since they can make their voices heard via the Internet. Given this new power, they expect that businesses will be more welcoming and less controlling than they used to be. Customers expect that products and services will be provided with better customer service than was provided in the past.
Given these heightened customer expectations, it is more effective to try to envision how the customer is seeing what is on offer from the company. In other words to see things through the customers eyes. That process is described as customer-centric Marketing
The Customer Experience
One definition of customer experience runs as follows:
the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.
Ensuring that the customer experience is optimal so that they will stay loyal to our brand and make repeat purchases is very challenging. Customers may interact with many members of the organization, some of whom may not realize the importance of delivering the best possible total customer experience. This requires a new rallying cry for all members of the organization.
We’re All Marketers Now
The McKinsey Quarterly suggests that new rallying cry: We’re All Marketers Now.
We’ve entered an era where customers no longer separate marketing from the online, in-store or face-to-face sales experience – it is the experience. In this era of engagement, marketing is the company and it’s far too important to be left to the marketing department. You’ve likely heard this before, but it’s never been so true, real, and in your face as it is today.
The process suggested involves 3 steps:
- Design – Designing a great customer-engagement strategy and experience depends on understanding exactly how people interact with a company throughout their decision journey.
- Build – Once a company designs how it will engage with customers, it needs the organizational capabilities to deliver: adding staff, building a social-media network infrastructure, retooling customer care operations, or altering reporting structures.
- Operate and renew – Digital technology has upended the engagement expectations of customers, who, for example, want one Web site to visit and a relationship seamlessly integrated across touch points.
This involves a new look for the marketing organization, involving initiatives such as:
- Distribute more activities around the organization
- Promote more councils and partnerships
- and most important of all, elevate the role of customer insights
In other words, they too are promoting the notion of customer-centric marketing. The customer is Queen (or King) and you must make sure you give them the royal treatment.
Marketing Right Now
The advice to apply Customer-Centric Marketing is not new. The term was first used in 2000. SMM has a free e-book, Marketing Right Now (PDF), that spells out the implications of this approach. As social media become ever more important, marketing right is essential and that means customer-centric marketing. The book is relatively compact and well worth reading. You may well find it brings out some aspects of marketing you have never considered before.