Activating the passion that consumers have for the brands they love and turning them into your advocates is the secret sauce to identifying and converting new customers as well as increasing the loyalty of retained customers.
This simple concept, customer-centric marketing, has been the basis of my work for more than 20 years. It’s why I embraced blogs and then social media so wholeheartedly. It’s why I advocate so strongly for transparency, authenticity and disclosure, because they foster trust, the currency of social interaction. Online and off. It’s why I have embraced GDPR and other privacy initiatives for the promise they offer to build strong relationships with customers based on a balanced, informed value exchange for personal data.
Customer-centric marketing is also an idea that is often given lip-service, but not nearly as often embedded in our corporate DNA. We talk a good game about building relationships with customers, incorporating consumer feedback, building products and services that delight them. But when it comes time to implement the marketing plan, we use the language of war. We target audiences. We deploy tactics. We execute plans. We profile the customers into personas who are expected to follow prescribed patterns of behavior.
Which is fine, to a point. It would be foolish not to aim your marketing efforts at the audience most likely to buy. But our language and our tactics both tend to dehumanize our customer, to the point that we forget they are people and not just impressions or clicks or conversions or profiles. Taken to the extreme, and make no mistake modern digital marketing exists on the very edge of this extreme, our marketing isn’t just automated, it’s robotic, and not in a good way.
More human tactics like social marketing, influencer engagement, event marketing and even branded content restore the balance and remind us that customers aren’t simply segmented groups of purchasing behaviors, they are people. Living, breathing people who love our products and services, and are simply waiting to be asked. While these tactics are very often more effective, they are nearly always more expensive than digital advertising which uses programmatic buying and consumer targeting to reach the right audiences cheaply, at scale.
The good news, for advocates of more human centered approaches (like me), is that GDPR promises to reduce that financial gap. The SUPPLY for targeted ads will be diminished when (inevitably) publishers can’t document permission or consumers withdraw permission. It also will be more expensive to deliver an audience targeted PROPERLY with personal data. Both scenarios will increase CPMs for the remaining inventory. More on these and other scenarios in Marketing Week.
Certainly, contextual targeting will pick up the slack for digital advertising. There also will still be a market for premium permission-targeted audiences. Niche publishers in particular have tremendous incentive to develop a strong value proposition, both for their content and in exchange for the use of personal data for targeting. I wrote about this last fall.
As the cost gap closes between digital advertising at scale and more engaging tactics like influencer marketing and branded content, marketers will have incentive to shift budget to customer-centric marketing, where relevance can be proven by our interest and engagement with content and brands, not simply implied by our browsing history or past purchasing behavior.
It’s then up to us as marketers to create the compelling, customer-centric campaigns that engage consumers and convert prospects to buyers.
Additional Reading on GDPR. Tick Tock. Less than 3 weeks to go.
- A column from the UK’s Marketing Week that shares a similar perspective on the opportunity to my own: Ben Davis: GDPR is the bible of customer-centricity
- Overview from Ad Exchanger on Google’s Policy: Google’s GDPR Consent Tool Will Limit Publishers To 12 Ad Tech Vendors
- Nice piece from AdAge: Publishing Trade Groups Criticize Google over GDPR Policy Sidebar: I find Google’s position that it is a data controller particularly interesting in light of its usual claim that it is a tech company, not a publisher or media company. It seems inconsistent that it would have first-party rights, as a controller, over data related to a content audience if it is not providing service to the audience directly (ie the content ) but only indirectly, via the services it provides to the publisher.
- Sweet piece from TechCrunch on Facebook’s response