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‘Brands, slogans, products, and media aren’t at the centre; rather they are spokes that help to bridge the gap between the customer and the business.’
So says Daniel Newman. And he’s right; strong relationships are the cornerstone of any business. They drive loyalty, create brand advocates and build a sense of community, to name just a few of the benefits.
Unlike the marketing of yesteryear, you can no longer shake hands with your customer and turn your back on them when a sale is complete. Today, you’ve got to be willing to build relationships or risk losing customers forever.
Here are five tried and tested tips on how you can use customer-centric marketing to build stronger relationships.
1. Embrace the inbound methodology
HubSpot's inbound methodology is arguably the most important marketing tool out there. It’s a surefire way to generate strong customer relationships. Why? Because it’s all about taking your customer on a journey.
With the inbound method, you’re building a strong relationship with your customer at every stage of the buyer’s journey. It’s not just about delivering slick marketing campaigns or building fancy websites: 74 percent of consumers believe that word-of-mouth was the key influencer in their purchasing decision. That’s proof that sales depend on strong relationships between you and your customers, and you can build them with inbound.
2. Make it personal
‘Today, consumers need to be taken on a journey across all the channels they use, which when combined delivers them with their own personalised experience’, explains Paul Cross, marketer at Oracle.
‘Those who fail to transform their strategies to foster long-term loyalty with customers risk getting left behind by their savvier and more nimble competitors.’
So, if you want to build relationships with your customers, you need to start by delivering personalised experiences.
Let’s look at an example. When it comes to email marketing, People Per Hour have it perfected. Every other day I receive an email from Rachel, their in-house marketer. The subject line is always eye-catching and upon opening the email, I’m delighted by her warm welcome.
Of course, this is an automated email from email@example.com, and I’ve made my peace with that. But it doesn’t stop me feeling like I’m part of the club. These personalisation tokens are an effective way of engaging customers and generating a sense of community, and it’s so easy to do.
3. Focus on the story
At the heart of everything in life is story. People, businesses, old cars, books (especially books!) and you need to tell yours in the best way possible so that your customers buy into it.
And you're in luck because storytelling has never been easier. With an abundance of tools, high-resolution and interactive media at your disposal, telling your customers your story has never been easier or more important.
National Geographic does this best (granted telling stories is their sole focus). Just look at this interactive piece on the assassination of President Kennedy. It’s utterly immersive and really takes you out of your chair and into the lives of those who were there.
The folks at PBS are also great storytellers. Their ability to transform the digital platform into something spectacularly emotive and with sincere purpose demonstrates their caring, worldly perspective that connects with so many.
The result? Brand promotion. If you don’t believe me, go and check out these stories (and the community’s reaction to them) for yourself. You can also check out these stories:
- How to sell a tale: the power of stories in marketing
- Why stories sell and feature lists don't
- What is a story? Storytelling and PR tips for writers and businesses
4. Treat your customers like real humans
Back in 2013, the social media management company Buffer was hacked and a series of spam emails were sent to customers through their clients’ social media accounts. Instead of pointing fingers and placing blame, Buffer took public responsibility and offered their customers complete transparency on the issue.
CEO Joel Gascoigne even sent a personal email to clients within the first hour of hacking, and customers have been nothing but loyal ever since. Email-based productivity company iDoneThis – a client of Buffers – summarised the event well:
‘Throughout, Buffer was transparent, responsive, and reassuring. They disclosed, accepted responsibility and apologized for the security breach.’
As a business, coming across as an actual human being is a key strength. Customers are people, and people want to be respected and in-the-know. By keeping them up-to-date, you’ll generate a loyal community who will face any weather front, right there with you.
5. Educate and inform
Let’s examine HubSpot for this tip. A marketing agency first and foremost, HubSpot has built a platform that enables businesses to supercharge their own marketing, offering indispensable tools and utilities. The entire ethos however, is education.
According to Dharmesh Shah, CTO at HubSpot, ‘success is making those that believed in you look brilliant’.
'At HubSpot, we work passionately to make our customers look brilliant.'
HubSpot users undergo training and certification and everyone has access to the company’s marketing blog, a trove of useful articles, guides and marketing tips. This is a genius tactic. Why? Because it:
- Equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to excel using HubSpot products
- Makes you feel like HubSpot invests in you and your success
- Keeps you using HubSpot products!
So here’s the key takeaway: invest in your customers. Share your knowledge with them in exchange for their patronage and watch your relationship flourish.
Bonus customer-centric marketing tip: offer actual value
Ask yourself: what would you want from a business as a customer? For most, it’s added value. You want to be cared for, appreciated and treated with respect and clarity.
If you’re not offering value to your customers, why should your customers value you? As put by the keynote speaker Chip Bell:
‘Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.’
Food for thought.