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Unpacking ‘Customer-Centricity:’ What It Means And How To Use It

  • Written by Carter Hallett, R2i
  • Published in Demanding Views

Hallett Carter255b1255dMarketers need to adapt to the expectations of the evolving customer now more than ever — a recent report by Gartner suggests that by 2020, poor customer experiences will destroy 30% of digital business projects.

Many of my clients know they need to be more “customer-centric” in marketing, but few can tell me how. Let’s unpack the term and discuss how to use it.

Most companies are still “product-centric.” They may tell you how awesome their products are and take pride in their engineering — often for good reason — but they come across as inauthentic and arrogant.

A customer-centric company doesn’t ask you to drink its Kool-Aid. Rather, it invests in learning about customers: who they are, what they need, what they struggle with and how their lives might be improved.

The customer-centric organizations use these learnings to address people’s needs and challenges from an informed point of view. (We might think that companies do that naturally, but they don’t! Often, marketers invent challenges and superimpose them on customers.)

Customer-centric companies adopt a rigorous, ongoing process for understanding their customers. In fact, a report by Deloitte & Touche shows that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable.

My coworkers and I use a research process that resists the creep of imagined problems. Here’s how it works:

Before: Research, Research, Research

Before my team constructs a marketing campaign, we research target audiences, customer needs, motivations and pain points — with interviews, surveys, focus groups and more. But we never settle for anything less than first-party conversations with customers.

When having direct conversations with customers, consider these tips:

  1. Ask open-ended questions to facilitate a free conversation and get deeper emotional insights. (Don’t use questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.”)
  2. Avoid leading questions that suggest a particular answer or emotional state. “Describe how you felt when making the purchase,” instead of, “What made you happy when making the purchase?”
  3. Don’t stick to a prepared script. Listen and ask probing questions about key topics in multiple ways to confirm the insights you are hearing.

During: Monitor Effectiveness For Better Campaigns

During a campaign, we monitor effectiveness through basic KPIs, such as conversion rates, sales revenue, leads, cost-per-acquisition and cost-per-lead. To be customer-centric, we also monitor engagement and sentiment through reviews and ratings, keyword analysis, social listening and customer feedback.

By monitoring engagement and sentiment, we can understand our customers’ emotional state to better tailor our marketing campaigns. You’ll find a variety of tools that can assist, including Crimson Hexagon, Synthesio, Moz, Google AdWords and many more.

Say we run a campaign for a digital privacy tool. Our analysis might reveal that customers who talk about privacy feel unsure about the available privacy protections and need guidance in understanding the latest developments. They may also talk about the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. And if they talk about GDPR, they may also discuss digital ad trackers, search engines and anonymous data. These are customer-centric emotions and themes. Find and add them to your campaigns.

After: Prioritize Better Reporting For Deeper Insights

No surprise, I believe in reporting and analytics. There’s a lot we can learn from monitoring basic KPIs during a campaign, but we need to go a level deeper to uncover the full picture.

Once a campaign has been completed, we perform a thorough post-campaign analysis. Who are our customers and how are we measuring their value? Were our original customer hypotheses validated? What was the ratio of new versus returning customers? What percentage made multiple purchases? After documenting our learnings from the entire campaign, we derive actionable insights, grounded in real data, that can improve our customer-centricity.

Adding It Up

Customer-centricity can be a painful buzzword, an empty term to inflate flimsy marketing strategies. When you define and act on the term, it becomes the real deal: Customers become more loyal and engaged, leading to better retention, greater lifetime value and improved ROI.


Carter Hallett brings 10+ years of experience and a well-rounded background in both traditional and digital marketing strategy to R2i, a full-service agency positioned to help guide companies through a complex marketing landscape and build integrated solutions that accelerate success. She works with both B2B and B2C clients to solve problems and create immersive experiences, with a focus on creative brainstorming, multi-channel marketing, content strategy and all things social media.