In her book Momentum (BenBella Books, 2016), author and entrepreneur Shama Hyder guides you through today's complex world of digital marketing to identify what works best for your customers. In this edited excerpt, Hyder highlights the importance of customer-focused marketing and shares tips on how to successfully implement the strategy.

Every single action you take should be centered around the customer you are looking to attract and retain. Here are some tips to making your marketing revolve around the customer:

1. Create every marketing strategy by first putting yourself in your customers' shoes.

Don't just look from the outside when coming up with ideas--put yourself inside each of your customer personas. Imagine that you were a mom into fitness but on a budget. What kind of marketing content would catch your eye? What would convince you to spend your money? Don't make the mistake of "telling" your personas what they should be interested in. Look at the world through their eyes to find out, instead.

2. Make it all about them.

Your entire focus in marketing should be not on marketing your company to your customers, but on giving your customers the spotlight via your company. How can you make your customers the stars of your marketing campaigns? Tap into their interests and desires to find the right approach, and then take a backseat while you let them shine.

3. Let customers know about your shared values.

Customers love companies that support a cause. But they especially love companies that support a cause near and dear to their hearts. And when a customer buys one of your products, the one they choose gives you a good idea of where exactly their interests lie. While it's certainly praiseworthy to support your own personal charity of choice, just imagine how much your efforts can be amplified if you chose a charity that aligned with your customers' values, as well. For example, if your company sells business software, lend your support to a cause relevant to your businesspeople customers--a program training disadvantaged youth to become business leaders, for example.

If donating to charity isn't possible, share your company's raison d'être with your customers--if it's heartfelt, it will resonate. Maybe your gym was started because your CEO is devoted to health and fitness, or maybe you became an educational software designer because you're passionate about educating young children. Anyone buying your products or services is obviously also interested in the same thing, and will appreciate your passion for something they see as important, too.

Make your values a major part of your branding, so people associate them with your company automatically. That way, your customers will be proud to let others know that they do business with you.

4. Have conversations, don't recite monologues.

Customers today want to be a part of the action, to actively build two-way relationships with brands, rather than passively being talked at. A social media post aimed at a general audience and not giving any reason to engage will be ignored. A post aimed at a specific persona and asking for feedback or opinions or some other form of dialogue will make customers feel valued and attract engagement.

5. Provide amazing customer service.

Don't think marketing and customer service belong in the same conversation? Think again. Social media, one of your chief marketing tools, is also one of the first places customers turn to express frustration, share their appreciation, or even ask a company for help. Answering customer questions and responding to comments both positive and negative will go a long way towards letting all your customers know that you take their concerns seriously.

6. Never stop asking how you can help.

Customers' needs and preferences change over time, so assuming they'll want to receive that same email newsletter a year from now, or that Facebook will still be their favorite place to hang out online in two years, can lead to problems. If you don't adapt your strategy to fit your customers' current situation, you will lose them. To prevent this from happening, keep asking questions. Include a question in every marketing email asking whether they'd like to change the types of emails they receive from you. Watch your analytics carefully to see whether your target audience has shifted and now follows links to your site from Pinterest more often than from Facebook. Ask customers outright whether their needs have changed.

Gathering this kind of data will keep your finger on the pulse of your target audience. Not only will this let your customers see that you truly care about their preferences, but it will also enable you to make continual changes so your marketing strategy grows more and more effective.

7. Make friends with their friends.

Have you ever heard of the psychological principle called triadic closure? It says that two people are more likely to be closer friends if they both share a third friend in common. People like closing gaps in their social networks, and having a third friend in common gives them even more reason to trust each other. How can you use this principle to your advantage?

Connect with an influencer.

Choose a well-known figure in your industry and develop a relationship with them. It might start out with some social media banter, then morph into a guest blogging opportunity, and finally evolve into a joint webinar. Or you might just agree to promote each other's products in your own emails or social media posts.

Whatever course your friendship takes, it will benefit you both. Why? Because people in your audience who already liked that influencer will now like you even more, knowing that you two are connected--and vice versa.

8. Create content for customers' every need.

Customers today want to educate themselves fully about a product or service online before they begin talking to a salesperson or set foot in a store. As they research and come closer and closer to a decision, they move through the various stages of the sales funnel, evolving from casual visitors to committed customers. Create content for people who are just looking for basic information, as well as for those who are interested in more in-depth explanations, comparisons, and case studies. If you become the resource they turn to again and again at every stage of their journey, your company will be top of mind--and will have inspired confidence and trust as an industry expert--when they make their final decision.

9. Make that content easy to read and remember.

The human brain is hardwired to respond to stories. Researchers have found that when you're listening to a particularly boring class lecture, or reading a list of bullet points in a blog, the only parts of your brain that are activated are the language processing centers. That's it.

But when you listen to a story, suddenly a bunch of other parts of your brain get involved, too. If the story has action, your brain's motor cortex lights up. If the story describes the way something looks or smells or feels, your brain's sensory cortex lights up.

Scientists actually did an experiment where they monitored the brain of a person telling a story along with the brains of the people listening to that story. And what they found out was amazing: The storyteller was able to synchronize her audience's brain waves with her own. When the emotional center in her brain was activated by a part of her story--so was her listeners'! The same was true for all of her brain's activity. She was basically able to transfer her thoughts and feelings into their heads, just by telling them a story.

You can use the way people respond to stories to help you in your business. The stories we remember most are the ones that make us feel a strong emotion. Maybe they make us laugh.

Maybe they terrify us. Maybe they make us feel outraged, or hopeful, or excited. In using a compelling story as part of your marketing, it doesn't matter which emotion you tap into--just as long as you tap into one.

Most important, make your customers the heroes of the story. Sure, they'd rather hear about how your business can help them than about how great your product or service is--benefits rather than features. But they'd rather hear even more about how, just by buying your product, they can be as successful as the guy in your story--or how they can avoid being as dumb as the guy in your story by giving your service a try.

When you share your message as a story, and then give your customers a way to enter your story and come out the hero, you're tapping into an age-old, primal trigger that people can't help but respond to.

Customer focus means so much more than targeting a certain demographic with your marketing, or finding out what a focus group says about your marketing tactics. It is a completely different mindset in which the customer becomes an active participant in every marketing strategy and campaign. Whether the customer's involvement happens through sharing an offer on social media or uploading pictures or videos of themselves engaging with a brand, the focus is on the customer, not the company. When marketing becomes personal, momentum is the natural result.

Published on: Jul 25, 2016
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