How to implement consumer-first marketing to boost loyalty and drive sales

Joe Wedgwood | 25th October 2016

If you don’t pay close attention to what channels your marketers are using, they may set their focus too firmly on sales/retention goals, or be too product-focused – which can create disjointed customer experiences. You will also risk neglecting the most important asset you have… your customers.

By inverting these traditional methods, your marketers can legitimately put the consumer back at the forefront of their efforts. This will deliver more effective results that will serve to drive loyalty, build deeper relationships and boost sales – introducing Consumer-First Marketing (CFM).

Consumer-first marketing

CFM defies the dated convention of how marketing ‘should’ behave, and instead focuses on the consumer journey to identify opportunities to solve unmet needs, entertain or add value to a relationship. Sounds good right?

By adopting this personal approach, you can ensure that the consumer is the focal point of all your marketing efforts – rather than the product or channel. In its truest form, it allows marketers to focus on moments, so every touchpoint becomes intelligent, intuitive and relevant – at a 1:1 level.

We recently teamed up with Christopher Baldwin, Head of Marketing at Selligent, the Consumer-First Marketing experts, to offer you some (no-strings-attached) tips on how to implement CFM to generate sales and boost customer loyalty.

Three basic principles

If your marketing is underpinned by these three basic principles, it will ensure that the consumer is at the centre of what you’re doing:

Integrity – Be honest and open. Apologise when things go wrong (Be genuine and humane.) If you imbed this into your culture from the top-down, it will be visible in every process. Do what’s right by the consumer, and the business.

Empathy – Speak the language of your customers, learn what makes them tick, so you can relate to them as best you can. Understand the consumer’s situation at the point of engagement – and act accordingly.

Relevance – Make the move beyond personalisation. Gone are the days of mail-merge marketing. Address your customer 1-to-1 and consider context. Learn which customer data matters and use it to create unique and tailored customer journeys.

In practice

At this juncture an example may help you to better understand how CFM works in a customer context: Imagine you are sitting in the departure lounge at London Heathrow and your flight is suddenly showing as cancelled – naturally, you’re livid! Suddenly your phone beeps with a new notification from your airline (It could be in the form of an email, SMS or push-app notification.) They are offering their sincerest apologies and the opportunity to speak with a customer service operator if you wish to. As you read on you see that they have given you a voucher/discount for your next flight too. There’s a strong chance you’ll still be annoyed, but I’m confident the blow will have been significantly softened.

No one likes automated/ impersonal messages. CFM fixes this problem to deliver true value, drive sales and deepen relationships. It also identifies opportunities for filling an unmet need, whilst promoting  true customer value, coupled with loyalty.

Customers are only as loyal to you, as they are to themselves. What do we mean by that I hear you say? A customer might be loyal to a particular retailer due to convenience, if you remove the convenience, you remove the loyalty – because the end result was only ever ease of existence for your consumers. Put simply, they are looking out for their own best interests.

By adding value repeatedly through engaging and personalised marketing you can deliver relevant communications throughout your customer’s journey – this will increase the value of your relationships and safeguard you against reduced loyalty.

How to trial

It’s time for you to dip your toe in the warm waters of consumer engagement – but where do you start?

It is advisable to start small and ‘ring-fence’ a small section of your customer experience to trial with – this way you won’t overhaul all your marketing automation and programmatic campaigns.

The easiest way to start is also the boldest – providing your customers with the chance to opt out from your communications. By targeting the customers who never engage with your messages and providing them with an opt-out opportunity it will show how much you care – “Hi there! We noticed you haven’t replied to any of our messages, so we will back off and stop bothering you. If you want us to continue messaging you then please click hereThis creates a better experience for the customer and ultimately leads to better email performance.

This is undoubtedly a daring technique, but it is also a sensible and cost-effective one. Email marketing will cost you money and time, and by limiting the amount of emails you send out you will save money and boost your budget for other channels. There is a strong argument that if you don’t adopt this approach you will be doing your brand an injustice.

You could also incorporate something situational into your campaign. For instance, if you work in retail, you could cash in on the weather – “We hope this gloomy weather isn’t depressing you? Our fashionable waterproof jackets could really help to lift your spirits!” At some point down the line, you could utilise an independent customer journey tailored to the people who bought your jackets – “How’s that raincoat working out for you? We just got a range of matching hats in that you might like?”

Biggest barriers

The biggest barrier when trying to build a bullet-proof CFM strategy is undoubtedly collecting the right data.

The modern-day consumer is fully aware of the economic power of their data. Consequently, they won’t give it up without a fight, so there needs to be a real reason behind you collecting it – e.g. the promise of a personalised experience or some exclusive offers news. You don’t need to collect 100% of your consumer’s ‘digital footprint’ – only the data which represents an opportunity for you to build relationships, solve problems and meet their unmet needs.

In order to be heard, you must harness your data in order to fine-tune it and make it transparent. By only collecting data with opportunities that add value and solve problems, you will be able to break through all the noise and create some real value. Reliability and relevance are the key factors you must consider.

Learn to break bad habits. Lots of marketers will be regimented and set in their ways. You must learn to break from the moulds that you are constrained to. Sticking to disciplined routines like sending 5 emails every morning will not help you. What you need to do is put your consumer at centre of all your campaigns and consider what would appeal to them. As leaders you must ensure that your marketers have the courage to break free of their bad habits. You may already be seeing it: Lower engagement? Increasing opt-outs? They’re both signs that traditional ways of working are not working…

This is typically more difficult for specialists than generalists. Specialists are ingrained in their processes and technicalities, so they find it difficult to change – pride can be a factor too. If you separate a specialist from what they know they will be lost, as they are less willing to change and place the consumer over their own channel of marketing. If you keep plugging away at them they’ll eventually get the idea though! Generalists are a much simpler breed of marketers to convert, they already have the mindset and willingness to change – they just need the knowhow.

Go out and try implementing some CFM of your own! Worst case it doesn’t work. Best case it will revolutionise your customer experience, bulk up your brand and most importantly build loyal customers who will purchase your product or service. Probably worth a punt if you ask me…