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Modern marketing: A new paradigm for success

With the rapid pace of technological change and increasingly savvy consumers, Denyse Drummond-Dunn reveals the key to adapting your marketing strategy for today’s world.

Marketing may seem like a modern phenomenon, but in reality it is an old profession. For as long as people have been selling products and services in a free market, marketing has existed in some form or another.

It became more formalised in the 20th Century, in which it has also undergone the most rapid phase of its evolution.

In the early ’80s, many companies began to take a serious look at their marketing in a strategic manner.

They realised that their primarily ‘outbound’ strategy – traditional marketing that seeks to push messages out to potential customers, via methods such
as cold-calling – had to change, because consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives.

‘Inbound’ marketing was then developed, largely alongside the Internet, focusing on attracting, engaging and delighting consumers.

However, marketers discovered customers were still irritated by some inbound marketing techniques, such as pop-up ads and cookies following their every move online. So, how can businesses keep up with consumers as marketing evolves?

The customer is always right

What has changed over the past five years is marketing’s deeper awareness of, if not complete adherence to, what customers like and dislike.

The major trends that we have seen and their impact on marketing, include:

• Adding chatbots – The likes of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp allow businesses to catch consumers on the go with highly personalised messaging

• Voice-recognition and voice-search technology – Products such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa allow customers to find what they want simply by asking; however it is a huge challenge for businesses because these services only give the first search engine result

• The rise of video – Video content has taken over social media, with apps like TikTok influencing the development of other platforms such as Instagram and Facebook

• Journey mapping overtakes influencer marketing – With the increasingly detailed data available from devices, many businesses have shifted their marketing plans to mirror their customers’ paths to purchase, which are largely through online means rather than referrals from their ‘influencer’ groups, such as family

• Zero-party data – Businesses have bypassed the need for passive data collection from social media apps and are instead increasing their direct engagement with customers through social media polls, quizzes and competitions

Satisfaction guaranteed?

In the past decade or so, conglomerates such as Procter & Gamble and Nestle´, renamed their marketing staff ‘brand builders’, in the hope of adapting to this new world.

They failed, miserably.

The reason is that despite changing the name, they continued to market in the same way. With very few exceptions, communication was still all about the brand, rather than its customers.

More progressive companies have realised that to satisfy today’s consumer they must move toward what I term, ‘customer- centricity’; putting customers at the heart of their business.

People understand a lot more about marketing than we give them credit for – and certainly, a lot more than they did just a few years ago.

Firstly, they know that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for sales or coupon discounts before purchasing.

They also realise that in today’s world, products have become increasingly similar; the format, colour or perfume may be different, but the performance is comparable – therefore, customer loyalty is a rare commodity!

Today’s consumers are far more likely to have a portfolio of brands in each category from which they choose, rather than one.

And finally, they have come to expect constant innovation, and quickly adapt to once-novel ideas before searching for the next improvement.

Indeed, according to Accenture’s Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past? report, nearly half of consumers say that they are more likely to switch brands now than 10 years ago.

The COVID-19 factor

Just as brands were adapting to the new savvy consumer, along came COVID-19 and with it another dramatic change in consumer behaviours.

The McKinsey report Reimagining Marketing in the Next Normal observed six potentially important changes in consumer behaviour as a result of the pandemic.

Some are an acceleration of existing trends, while others are newly emerging:

• Shopping – there has been a marked acceleration in consumers turning to digital and reduced-contact ways of accessing products and services; this trend is particularly pronounced in Millennials, Gen Z, and higher- income consumers

• E-services – consumers are embracing online service platforms, which presents opportunities for new marketing strategies and cross-promotions

• Home – consumers are searching for ways to integrate all aspects of life into their home, from work to exercise and more; therefore marketing via home- based devices such as Alexa and Google Home is becoming more important

• Community – experiences are increasingly localised, which gives small businesses an edge when it comes to marketing to nearby shoppers

• Trust – safety is top-of-mind for consumers, with many likely to return to regular bricks-and-mortar shopping only when they can trust that spaces are hygienic and/or touch-free

• Purpose – consumers are holding companies to higher standards; if businesses decide to undertake socially- conscious marketing or promotions, they must be ‘backed up’ with real action

To summarise, it appears that people have come to the realisation that they have more control than before, with higher expectations.

Given these trends, customer-centricity the only viable strategy – and marketing needs to adapt to it.

The customer-centric test
“Progressive companies have realised that to satisfy today’s consumer they must move toward what I term, ‘customer- centricity’; putting customers at the heart of their business.”

Companies that place the customer at the heart of their business are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful, accessible information, entertaining content, and their contact pages are detailed.

These businesses also involve and seek advice from their customers, and their packaging is user-friendly, with products and services that are easy to find and buy.

Their advertising also usually presents the customer – not the brand – as the hero.

In every aspect of a customer-centric organisation, the customer clearly drives each and every decision.

With this in mind, here are some essential first steps to adopt a customer- centric strategy:

• Make customers visible – Place pictures of your prospective customers everywhere so staff start to naturally think about them

• Validate customers – Whenever a decision is made, ask “What would our customers think about this?”

This step helps businesses avoid practices that customers perceive as ‘cheating’, such as taking credit card details for a free trial, in the hope that the customer will forget and be automatically charged later

• Review your website – Take a closer look at the language used on your website; if there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do!

Assess the site from a customer’s perspective – is everything useful?

• Update personas – Customer personas, also known as avatars, are frequently used in marketing plans to create a simple reference for the target segments or demographics.

Refresh yours to reflect new trends

• Examine your advertising – Consider developing creative concepts that make use of your customers’ experiences and their emotional triggers

• Get connected – Spend time with front- line staff and customers, whether online or in-store, to learn more about the people who buy your products and discover new opportunities for marketing to them

• Focus on employees – Share customer insights with staff and communicate with each employee so they understand the role they play in satisfying customers. Make them ‘fans’ of your customers

These are your starter tasks for evolving your marketing towards a customer-first strategy. So what are you waiting for?



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Denyse Drummond-Dunn

Contributor • C3Centricity

Denyse Drummond-Dunn works with organisations that want to attract, delight, and retain more customers. Learn more: c3centricity.com

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